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Vince McMahon steps down as WWE CEO amid an investigation into a $3 million hush payment

Jason Burgos
vince mcmahon, wwe
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

World Wrestling Entertainment has announced that CEO and Chairman Vince McMahon will temporarily step down from his role as the head of the organization as an internal investigation into a multi-million dollar hush payment.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal broke the news of an investigation started by board members in April to look into an alleged $3 million hush-money payment made by McMahon to a former employee of the company. The report detailed that the payment was made to a paralegal hired in 2019 that is believed to have had an affair with the legendary professional wrestling promoter, and received a major promotion during her tenure with WWE.

Related: WWE sale – Possible buyer options if McMahon sells his creation

The investigation also reportedly revealed “other, older nondisclosure agreements involving claims by former female WWE employees of misconduct by Mr. McMahon and one of his top executives, John Laurinaitis, the head of talent relations at WWE.”

Stephanie McMahon steps into Vince McMahon’s role as CEO of WWE

vince mcmahon, wwe
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Following the serious allegations against the 79-year-old company head, WWE announced on Friday that Vince McMahon has temporarily stepped down from his role as the top boss of the organization.

“Effective immediately, McMahon has voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities as CEO and Chairman of the Board until the conclusion of the investigation. McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period and remains committed to cooperating with the review underway.”

The Special Committee overseeing the investigation also announced that Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of Vince will serve as interim CEO and Chairwoman. Oddly enough, Stephanie recently took an indefinite leave of absence from the company for personal reasons. It is unclear if it was due to the ongoing investigation.

However, her return proves that today’s decision was not planned in advance and is likely a result of the media backlash from the Wall Street Journal report.

“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 a 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.”

Fightful Select reported on Wednesday that, “Sources indicated that the relationship between Vince McMahon and the paralegal was ‘suspected’ by many in the company, and indicated that she was given a substantial promotion around the time of the April 2021 WWE cuts. We’re told specifically she was promoted from John Laurinaitis assistant to a ‘director’ role that spring.”

Speculation, since the story broke, has suggested that Laurinaitis — a decades-long WWE employee — is likely to be the “fall guy” for McMahon in this situation. And that the biggest threat to the former CEO is where the hush money payments came from. If it can be proven that they came from his personal funds, and not from the company’s, many assume he will hold on to his role in leading the company.