The most important person in professional wrestling history passes the baton.
Vince McMahon is retiring as president and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, he announced Friday. In a WWE press release, the 76-year-old McMahon further announced that his daughter, Stephanie, and current WWE Chairman Nick Khan would take over as co-CEOs. Stephanie McMahon, who served as interim CEO, will also take over as president, according to McMahon’s statement.
McMahon previously stepped down from his role as chairman and CEO following a Wall Street Journal report that revealed a WWE board investigation into a secret $3 million settlement awarded by McMahon. to a former WWE paralegal. But at the time, McMahon was still keeping his role as WWE’s chief creative officer, and sources told ESPN that McMahon’s resignation was done for optics.
The Wall Street Journal followed up with another report on McMahon’s alleged wrongdoing on July 8. The newspaper reported that the board was investigating $12 million given to four former WWE employees or contractors to silence allegations of McMahon’s sexual misconduct.
The $12 million included an alleged $7.5 million to a former WWE wrestler who said McMahon forced her to perform oral sex, demoted her and then did not renew her contract in 2005 after resisting further sexual encounters with him.
McMahon’s retirement represents a massive change in the world of professional wrestling, where he has been an integral part since buying WWE from his father in the 1980s. McMahon has built WWE into a billion dollar brand. dollars with a global reach, a promotion that has imposed itself over the decades against its competitors.
“I am extremely confident in the continued success of WWE, and I leave our company in the able hands of an extraordinary group of Superstars, employees and executives – in particular, Chairman and Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon and the co-CEO Nick Khan,” McMahon said in a statement to WWE investors Friday. “As majority shareholder, I will continue to support WWE in any way I can. My personal thanks to our community and business partners, shareholders and Board of Directors for their guidance and support over the years.”
WWE also announced Friday that McMahon’s son-in-law and Stephanie’s husband, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, are returning to the company as head of talent relations, although it’s immediately unclear whether that is tied to McMahon’s retirement.
McMahon would leave a complicated, scandal-ridden legacy, including accusations that he supplied his wrestlers with steroids taken from him by the United States government in 1994. A jury found McMahon not guilty.
In the late 1990s, McMahon, who had also worked in front of the camera as a play-by-play announcer for years, became a key on-screen figure during one of the hottest periods of the WWE. His evil boss character Mr. McMahon taking on blue-collar anti-hero “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is one of the most memorable storylines in WWE history. The feud helped WWE overtake WCW, the rival promotion that WWE later purchased.
WWE became a publicly traded company in 1999. Its two main television shows, Raw and SmackDown, have been among the highest rated shows on cable since the 1990s.