Home Stone cold stunner: WWE chairman, CEO Vince McMahon announces retirement

Stone cold stunner: WWE chairman, CEO Vince McMahon announces retirement

Chris Graham
(© photoraidz – stock.adobe.com)

Vince McMahon announced Friday that he is stepping down from his roles with WWE, the company that he built from a small regional wrestling promotion based in the Northeast into a multibillion-dollar sports entertainment conglomerate.

The future of McMahon, until recently the chairman, CEO and head of creative at WWE, with the company had come into question when the Wall Street Journal reported last month that the 77-year-old had paid $3 million in hush money to a former WWE employee with whom he’d had a sexual relationship.

Another report from the paper last week added more hush money payments, including one for $7.5 million to a former female WWE superstar who claimed that McMahon had forced her to perform oral sex, then was let go by the company when she refused further sexual advances.

McMahon, a 1964 graduate of Waynesboro’s Fishburne Military School, owned a supermajority of WWE voting stock, seemingly insulating him from any repercussions even as the company launched multiple investigations into his conduct.

The one leverage point: WWE’s TV contracts. The bulk of the company’s annual revenues come from its billion-dollar deals with Fox and NBCUniversal to broadcast the weekly “Smackdown” and “Raw” TV shows and to stream the WWE Network.

It’s unclear at this time if the interest in protecting those deals was what persuaded McMahon to decide to step down. According to published reports, McMahon made the call to retire last week, and the company quietly began putting the team that would lead WWE in the interim into place.

McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, will serve as co-CEO alongside Nick Khan, who until recently had served as president and chief financial officer of the company.

McMahon-Levesque appeared in the ring at the top of Friday’s episode of “Smackdown” on Fox to announce her father’s retirement to the live crowd in Boston, which loudly booed the news, and later followed McMahon-Levesque’s lead in a “Thank you, Vince” chant.

Earlier today, before Vince McMahon’s announcement that he was stepping down, WWE had hyped the return of Paul Levesque, known to fans by his in-ring name, Triple H, to the role of executive vice president for talent relations, replacing John Laurinaitis, who had also been implicated in the original reporting by the Wall Street Journal regarding McMahon’s relationship with a former employee.

Among Levesque’s first duties will be helping the company deal with reported chaos behind the scenes that accompanied the stunning McMahon retirement news. Former WWE champ Brock Lesnar, slated to appear in the main event at next week’s “Summerslam” to challenge current champ Roman Reigns, reportedly left the venue upon hearing the news, telling those within earshot that “if he goes,” referring to McMahon, “then I go.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].