STAMFORD, Conn. – BUSINESS – Vince McMahon, co-founder of WWE, has stepped down from his position as the executive chairman at TKO Group Holdings. McMahon’s resignation comes in the wake of detailed and disturbing sexual assault allegations brought forth by former WWE staffer Janel Grant.
This sudden departure is likely to have far-reaching implications for both TKO and WWE.
McMahon in a statement obtained by NetNewsLedger says, “Out of respect for the WWE Universe, the extraordinary TKO business and its board members and shareholders, partners and constituents, and all of the employees and Superstars who helped make WWE into the global leader it is today, I have decided to resign from my executive chairmanship and the TKO board of directors, effective immediately.”
McMahon Responds to Lawsuit: “I Intend to Vigorously Defend Myself”
In response to the lawsuit filed by Janel Grant, Vince McMahon says, “I stand by my prior statement that Ms. Grant’s lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and is a vindictive distortion of the truth. I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations and look forward to clearing my name.”
Resignation in the Wake of Janel Grant’s Sexual Assault Suit
Janel Grant’s lawsuit paints a grim picture of her time at WWE from 2019 to 2022, alleging constant abuse by McMahon and several WWE executives, as well as an unnamed “WWE Superstar.” The lawsuit seeks various damages and the nullification of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that Grant claims she was coerced into signing.
McMahon’s Exit Creates Uncertainty at TKO
As McMahon departs from his role as executive chairman at TKO, questions arise about who will succeed him, or if the position will continue to exist. Sources suggest that discussions surrounding the leadership transition are ongoing, leaving TKO in a state of flux.
Nick Khan’s Announcement: McMahon “Will No Longer Have a Role with TKO Group Holdings or WWE”
WWE CEO Nick Khan informed company staff of McMahon’s resignation via an internal email. In the email, Khan states, “Vince McMahon has resigned and will no longer have a role with TKO Group Holdings or WWE.”
From WWE Ouster to TKO Formation
This recent development marks another chapter in McMahon’s turbulent journey. He was previously ousted from WWE in 2022 due to “alleged executive misconduct,” a controversy that implicated WWE talent relations chief John Laurinaitis and led to significant financial settlements with former female employees and others.
Grant’s Claim of a $3 Million Agreement
Notably, Grant’s lawsuit references a $3 million agreement between her and McMahon. According to her complaint, McMahon had agreed to pay her $3 million in 2022 to maintain the secrecy of their sexual relationship if she signed an NDA. Grant now seeks to have the NDA declared void, alleging that she has only received $1 million from McMahon thus far. Laurinaitis, named as a defendant in Grant’s suit, left WWE in 2022.
TKO’s Statement on the Matter
TKO, where Ari Emanuel serves as CEO, previously highlighted McMahon’s role in the company but distanced itself following the lawsuit. They stated, “Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE.” The company also emphasized its commitment to addressing Grant’s allegations internally.
Impact on TKO’s Recent Deal with Netflix
This lawsuit emerged just over 48 hours after TKO announced a monumental 10-year, $5 billion deal with Netflix. The agreement involves Netflix’s involvement in WWE’s Monday Night Raw and other company programs. The lawsuit, coupled with McMahon’s resignation, adds uncertainty to TKO’s future endeavors. It also coincides with WWE’s 37th Royal Rumble event, set to proceed without McMahon’s participation.