WWE’s Vince McMahon resigns after sexual assault and trafficking lawsuit

Former employee files lawsuit accusing McMahon and another executive of sexual assault, trafficking and emotional abuse.

WWE owner Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon [File: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters]

Vince McMahon has resigned from wrestling giant TKO Group and the subsidiary World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) he founded after a lawsuit that accused him of sexual assault and trafficking.

McMahon stepped down from his position as executive chairman of the board of directors at WWE’s parent company, TKO Group Holdings, according to a statement released late on Friday.

Former employee Janel Grant sued the company, McMahon and former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis, alleging sexual assault, trafficking and emotional abuse.

Grant filed the complaint on Thursday in a court in the US state of Connecticut, where WWE is based, accusing McMahon of coercing her into a “sexual relationship”, sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of her with male colleagues, and subjecting her to “increasingly depraved sexual demands” that included sexual encounters with Laurinaitis and others.

McMahon’s statement said he was leaving the board “out of respect” for WWE and TKO Group.

“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,” he said in the statement.

“I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations, and look forward to clearing my name.”

On Thursday, Grant’s lawyer Ann Callis said in a statement that Grant hopes her lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimised.

“The organisation is well aware of Mr McMahon’s history of depraved behavior, and it’s time that they take responsibility for the misconduct of its leadership,” she said.

Grant is seeking unspecified monetary damages and to have the court void a $3m nondisclosure agreement, of which she alleges she received only $1m.

Ongoing accusations

In 2022, McMahon stepped down as WWE’s CEO amid an investigation into allegations that match those in Grant’s lawsuit.

His daughter Stephanie McMahon was named interim CEO as the investigation continued amid widening allegations of misconduct and payments of millions of dollars to women formerly associated with WWE to keep quiet about affairs and alleged misconduct.

After buying what was then the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father in 1982, McMahon turned the second-rate league into an entertainment giant.

He used scripted matches, celebrity wrestlers and glitz to make the brand more acceptable to television audiences, and created the concept of pay-per-view matches for bigger events such as “WrestleMania” to build its revenue base.

The organisation passed the billion-dollar mark in annual sales last year and on Tuesday Netflix sealed a 10-year, $5bn broadcast deal with WWE.

TKO was formed after WWE merged last April with the company that runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to create the $21.4bn sports entertainment company.

Source: News Agencies