Vince McMahon voluntarily stepped down as Chairman and CEO of WWE on Friday morning amid allegations of misconduct and an ongoing investigation by the company, the WWE announced in a statement.
“I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the Special Committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation," McMahon said in the statement. "I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are."
Stephanie McMahon was named interim CEO and interim Chairwoman. She's the daughter of Vince McMahon, the company's chief brand officer as well as a former wrestler.
“I love this company and am committed to working with the Independent Directors to strengthen our culture and our Company; it is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace," Stephanie McMahon said in the statement. "I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the Special Committee complete its work, including marshaling the cooperation of the entire company to assist in the completion of the investigation and to implement its findings."
The WWE board of directors began investigating McMahon in April and discovered he paid $3 million to cover up an affair with a former employee, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal. McMahon used his own money to pay off the former employee, according to the report, with an upfront payment of $1 million and another $2 million to be paid out over five years.
Vince McMahon makes brief cameo at WWE Smackdown
Despite all of the above intrigue, McMahon still decided to make an appearance at Friday's WWE SmackDown event. He received a mixed, but overall enthusiastic reaction as he entered the ring, invoked the WWE's "Then, Now, Forever, Together" slogan, tossed his microphone and walked out of the ring.
Allegations against Vince McMahon
The Wall Street Journal wrote that anonymous emails obtained by the board's investigative committee detailed a relationship between McMahon and a former employee. When the relationship turned sexual, McMahon allegedly increased her salary as a paralegal from $100,000 to $200,000 and “gave her like a toy” to WWE executive John Laurinaitis:
“My friend was so scared so she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry paid her millions of dollars to shut up,” the initial email to the board said, referring to Mr. McMahon’s longtime lawyer, Mr. [Jerry] McDevitt, who negotiated the deal, according to people familiar with the board inquiry.
McDevitt told the Journal in a letter the former employee hadn't made any claims of harassment against McMahon. The board's investigation also determined the relationship between McMahon and the former employee was consensual.
The board is working with independent legal counsel in its investigation and will also reportedly work with an independent third party for a "comprehensive review of the company’s compliance program, HR function and overall culture." They have retained the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP out of New York to conduct the investigation.