Vince McMahon Resigns From TKO Group Board Following Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Vince McMahon has resigned as executive chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment’s parent company, TKO Group, days after a former WWE employee Janel Grant filed a lawsuit alleging the WWE founder and former CEO, along with another WWE executive, sexually assaulted, harassed and trafficked her over a period of years.

McMahon, who has not been criminally charged with any crimes, denied the allegations, but said he would step down due to “respect for the WWE Universe.”

“I have decided to resign from my executive chairmanship and the TKO board of directors, effective immediately,” McMahon said in a statement. He remains WWE’s largest shareholder.

In a separate statement, TKO said: “Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE. While this matter pre-dates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”

After briefly resigning from WWE in 2022 following allegations of improper workplace behavior, McMahon returned in early 2023 to help facilitate WWE’s sale to entertainment Endeavor Group Holdings, which combined the pro wrestling entertainment company with Ultimate Fighting Championship to create TKO.

Earlier this week, TKO inked a reported $5 billion exclusive streaming rights agreement with Netflix for WWE’s weekly “Raw” live wrestling show, among other assets. The company also named Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to its board of directors.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock is the current exclusive streaming platform for WWE programming, including last night’s “Royal Rumble” live event.

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Former Employee Files Sexual Abuse, Trafficking Charges Against WWE, Founder, Chairman Vince McMahon

A former employee at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Jan. 25 filed a lawsuit against the pro wrestling conglomerate, its founder and chairman Vince McMahon, and another executive, alleging years-long sexual abuse and sex trafficking, among other charges.

Vince McMahon (Shutterstock image)

The 67-page suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, in lurid detail contends that in 2019 plaintiff Janel Grant met and was subsequently hired by McMahon with the promise of a career at WWE. Instead, over time Grant claims she was subjected to sexual harassment and abuse by McMahon and former WWE employee John Laurinaitis “for their own pleasure and as a pawn to secure talent deals with prospective wrestlers they were recruiting”.

The suit alleges “McMahon objectified and trafficked Grant,” demanded that she “engage in threesomes with other men,” and that she “send explicit photographs for him to share with other men,” despite the plaintiff on multiple occasions explaining that she was hesitant to obeying, and all while McMahon controlled her job security.

After McMahon’s wife learned of the affair, Grant was allegedly forced to resign and sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with a reported payment of $3 million in 2022. The suit alleges McMahon made initial payments and then stopped paying.

In the suit, Grant seeks to invalidate the NDA under Federal and State laws and other laws, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Nate Johnson, managing director at August Company, who claims to be representing McMahon, issued a statement on behalf of McMahon.

“This lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth,” Johnson wrote. “[McMahon] will vigorously defend himself.”

McMahon, who in 2022 briefly stepped aside from WWE after its was reported the company had paid millions to four women as hush money to keep secret allegations of his sexual misconduct, returned to the company in January 2023 as executive chairman. He was instrumental in selling WWE to Endeavor, in a deal that included the Ultimate Fighting Championship, to create TKO Group Holdings, a media company reportedly worth $21 billion.

The suit comes the day after Netflix inked a reported 10-year, $5 billion distribution deal with TKO for WWE’s weekly live “Raw” program, in addition to streaming rights to much of WWE’s content portfolio across foreign markets, set to begin in 2025.

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WWE Elevates Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque to Chief Content Officer, Frank Riddick Promoted to CFO

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) continues to restructure internally following the sudden resignation of founder and CEO Vince McMahon in July.

The media company Sept. 6 announced the promotions of former wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque to chief content officer and Frank Riddick to president and CFO.

Levesque taking over creative for WWE has coincided with a 15% spike in “Monday Night Raw” viewership and double-digit increases in social media engagement, according to the company. As chief content officer, Levesque will oversee creative writing, talent relations, live events, talent development and creative services. He will report to co-CEO Nick Khan. Levesque is married to WWE chairwoman/co-CEO Stephanie McMahon.

Riddick joined WWE as interim CFO last year, after serving on the company’s board of directors for more than 13 years. During that time, WWE recorded annual and quarterly records for revenue and adjusted pre-tax earnings, according to the company. In his new role, Riddick will oversee financial planning and analysis, strategy, controllership, investor relations, tax, data analytics, technology, event travel and facilities. He will jointly report to Stephanie McMahon and Khan.

“We are excited to announce expanded roles for Paul and Frank, which will enhance WWE’s ability to create premium content for our partners around the world and, ultimately, drive our business forward,” McMahon and Khan said in a statement.

Vince McMahon had temporarily stepped down from his leadership position earlier this year following allegations he had paid millions to former female employees to suppress sexual misconduct and infidelity charges.

The WWE later disclosed in a regulatory filing that McMahon had made payments totaling $14.6 million to women from 2006 through 2022. As a result, the WWE said it would be revising fiscal statements for 2019, 2020, 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

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WWE Founder/Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon Retires, Daughter Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan Assume Co-CEO Positions

Vince McMahon, founder and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, has formally retired after more than 40 years. His daughter Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan have been named co-CEOs of the venerable professional wrestling promotional company.

The elder and married McMahon had temporarily stepped down from his leadership position following allegations he had paid millions to former female employees to suppress sexual misconduct and infidelity charges.

The WWE July 25 disclosed in a regulatory filing that McMahon made payments totaling $14.6 million to women from 2006 through 2022. As a result, the WWE said it would be revising its fiscal statements for 2019, 2020, 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

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“As I approach 77 years old, I feel it’s time for me to retire as chairman and CEO of WWE,” McMahon said in a statement. “I would like to thank my family for mightily contributing to our success, and I would also like to thank all of our past and present Superstars and employees for their dedication and passion for our brand. Most importantly, I would like to thank our fans for allowing us into your homes every week and being your choice of entertainment.”

WWE, which broadcasts its content in more than 180 countries and 30 languages, recently licensed its WWE Network streaming platform to NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform, in a reported $1 billion deal for five years.

Stephanie McMahon Named Interim CEO of WWE as Board Investigates Her Father, Vince McMahon, for Alleged Misconduct

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and its board of directors June 17 announced that a special committee of the board is conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct by its chairman/CEO Vincent McMahon and John Laurinaitis, head of talent relations.

Effective immediately, McMahon has voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities until the conclusion of the investigation. McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period. WWE said McMahon will still appear on “SmackDown” tonight at 8 p.m. ET live on Fox.

The special committee has appointed longtime WWE executive Stephanie McMahon, daughter of Linda and Vince McMahon, to serve as interim CEO and interim chairwoman.

The move comes after media reports said a former WWE female employee was paid an alleged $3 million hush settlement to cover up an affair with Mr. McMahon.

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“I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the special committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation. I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are,” Mr. McMahon said in a statement.

In a statement, Stephanie McMahon said she was committed to working with the independent directors to strengthen the culture and WWE.

“It is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace,” she said. “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.”

In addition, the special committee and WWE will work with an independent third-party to conduct a comprehensive review of the company’s compliance program, HR function and overall culture.

In 2021, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform acquired exclusive rights to the WWE Network in a five-year deal worth a reported $1 billion.

WWE Q1 Surprise: Home Entertainment Revenue Surges

Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) reported $62.5 million in “other” media revenue for the first quarter (ended March 31) — a category that includes disc sales. That compared to $9.4 million in revenue during the previous-year period. The revenue surge was largely due to the favorable timing of the company’s large-scale international event “Super ShowDown,” in addition to theatrical and direct-to-home video DVDs sold at Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other big-box retailers.

Separately, WWE Network, the company’s subscription streaming video platform, saw average paid subscribers decrease 8% to about 1.46 million, consistent with company’s guidance. McMahon and senior management are attempting to restructure the $9.99 monthly SVOD, including expanding distribution internationally.

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McMahon said the quarter’s financial performance was largely unimpacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, but added the situation could change going forward.

“We are in the midst of unprecedented times, which require us to be especially nimble, creative and efficient in order to ensure the long-term value of WWE,” McMahon said in a statement.

Indeed, the executive earlier this month permanently shuttered his pet pro football project, the XFL, for the second time with no plans to bring the league back in 2021. Featuring former college football players and NFL rejects, the XFL lasted halfway through a 10-game season before being shut down due to concerns about COVID-19.

The WWE also relocated its annual Wrestlemania event, slated for late March, to its Orlando training center, holding matches without any crowds.

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Interim CFO Frank Riddick said that ongoing uncertainties of the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the business have resulted in reduced employee, talent and other costs and delayed approximately $140 million in capital spending related to the WWE’s new headquarters.

“This was done to strengthen our financial performance going forward and to ensure we have the resources necessary to execute our value creation strategy,” Riddick said.

XFL Cancels Remaining 2020 Season

As expected, Vince McMahon’s alternative reboot of professional football, the XFL, March 20 formally canceled the remaining half of its season due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

In a statement, league CEO Oliver Luck (father of former NFL QB Andrew Luck) and COO Jeffrey Pollack said they had little choice but canceling the season with COVID-19 infections topping 19,000 in the United States.

“This decision has been made with the health and safety of the entire XFL family as our top priority,” Luck and Pollack wrote.

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A mainstay on ESPN and Fox Sports for football-crazy consumers, the XFL featured eight teams in Dallas, St. Louis, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C., a 10-week season that was half completed when the coronavirus emerged in the United States, prompting the league to suspend the season.

The league, which WWE founder McMahon last operated in 2001, had averaged more than 18,000 fans per game this year, with 1.9 million average viewers across ABC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports and FS1.

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XFL 2020 Season to Stream Abroad on ESPN Player

The Xtreme Football League (XFL), established in 2001 for one season only by WWE founder Vince McMahon, is slated to return with a 10-game regular season Feb. 8, 2020, on ABC and Fox.

Disney-owned ESPN announced it would stream the entire XFL season on its ESPN Player, the standalone service only available outside the United States.

The eight-team league is divided into two four-team divisions (East and West). The XFL East features the DC Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis Battle Hawks and Tampa Bay Vipers. The Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats and Seattle Dragons comprise the XFL West.

While the league will likely field NFL rejects and wannabes, former marquee players such as ex-Super Bowl QB Colin Kaepernick have reportedly met with the league.

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McMahon has made it clear players in the XFL would not be permitted to kneel during the national anthem, the protest act that contributed to Kaepernick being blacklisted from the NFL.

Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick kneeling during a San Francisco 49ers game.

“People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” McMahon said in a press interview last year. “We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time.”

Both Kaepernick and fellow protester Eric Reid — who repeatedly kneeled during playing of the anthem as protest regarding alleged police brutality toward African American men — settled their grievances against the NFL last year.

Notably, ESPN Player is also streaming  “This Was the XFL,” ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary on the upstart league’s promising but short existence 18 years ago. The doc looks at how the league impacted how professional team sports are broadcast today.

WWE Streaming Video Service Losing Subs, Pins Hopes on Linear TV

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has new TV broadcast deals with Fox and Comcast, which couldn’t come at a better time for the showbiz promoter.

That’s because WWE’s forays into subscription-based over-the-top video to supplant waning packaged-media sales are flatlining.

The company’s flagship WWE Network averaged 1.51 million paid subscribers the third quarter (ended Sept.30), consistent with downward guidance through the first nine months of the fiscal year.

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Average paid subs decreased 9% primarily driven by the impact of lower subscriber additions earlier in the year. For the fourth quarter, WWE projects average paid subscribers of approximately 1.43 million, representing a year-over-year decline of 10%.

Digital video views increased 12% on a year-over-year basis to 25.6 billion and hours consumed increased 14% to 957 million hours across digital and social platforms.

Media revenue increased to $146.1 million from $142.1 million in the prior year quarter, primarily due to the contractual escalation of core content rights fees, including license fees from the distribution of flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” as well as the timing and performance of WWE Studios’ portfolio releases.

That’s music to the ears of WWE founder/CEO Vince McMahon.

“With our flagship programming now spanning both broadcast and cable throughout the week in the U.S. and our expanding roster of international distribution partners, we remain excited about our ability to deepen the engagement with our fans around the world,” McMahon said.

 

WWE Streaming Video Service Tops 1.59 Million Subscribers

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Feb. 7 reported a 7% (110,000) increase in fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) subscribers to its WWE Network over-the-top video streaming service. The platform ended the period with 1.59 million subs.

Media revenue grew 40% to a quarterly record of $205.3 million, primarily due to the distribution of certain live, in-ring programming content in international markets, which was partially offset by the timing and performance of the company’s portfolio of original movies.

Additionally, media revenue reflected the contractual escalation of core content rights fees, including license fees from the distribution of WWE’s flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” as well as increased sales of advertising and sponsorship across platforms and the continued growth of WWE Network.

“In 2018, WWE generated the highest level of revenue and earnings in the company’s history by leveraging our brand strength to increase the monetization of our content worldwide,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “Our long-term growth strategy will continue to focus on content creation, digitization and international development.”