The World Wrestling Entertainment board is investigating longtime Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon for previously undisclosed settlement agreements with former employees. Those include a payoff of $3 million to a female employee he allegedly had an affair with, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
McMahon is the majority shareholder of the publicly traded company’s Class B shares, which grant him overwhelming voting power. Additionally, the board has various members of his family.
The board probe began in April, the WSJ report says. The employee who received the $3 million settlement reportedly had a consensual relationship with McMahon, who used personal funds for the payoff.
However, the board probe has unearthed other, older nondisclosure agreements involving claims by former female WWE employees against McMahon and one of his top executives, John Laurinaitis, the head of talent relations at WWE, the WSJ reported. It could not put a number on the settlement count, but said they were in the millions of dollars. The WSJ said the board believes that all of the settlements came from McMahon’s personal funds, including the one settlement involving Laurinaitis.
New York-based law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is heading the investigation, the WSJ reported. As part of the probe, the firm is also assessing WWE’s compliance and human-resources programs and company culture
In a letter to The Wall Street Journal, McMahon’s attorney, Jerry McDevitt, claimed the woman who received the $3 million settlement was a former paralegal and hadn’t made any claims of harassment against McMahon.
The WWE is a wrestling entertainment powerhouse which reported record revenues of $1.1 billion last year. It has a five-year exclusive agreement with NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform valued at $1 billion, and also has licensing agreements with NBCUniversal and Fox. It also has an international agreement with Disney Plus Hotstar in Indonesia.
Fox broadcasts the WWE Friday Night SmackDown, while Hulu streams the WWE’s Monday Night Raw, which has an agreement set to expire this year.
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