Vince McMahon, the renowned founder of wrestling giant TKO Group and its subsidiary World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), has resigned from his position as the executive chairman of the board of directors at WWE’s parent company, TKO Group Holdings. This move follows a lawsuit filed by former employee Janel Grant, accusing McMahon of sexual assault, trafficking, and emotional abuse.
In the complaint filed on Thursday in a Connecticut court, where WWE is based, Grant alleges that McMahon coerced her into a “sexual relationship,” shared explicit content of her with male colleagues, and subjected her to “increasingly depraved sexual demands,” including encounters with former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis and others.
McMahon released a statement indicating his departure from the board “out of respect” for WWE and TKO Group. In response to Grant’s allegations, he stated, “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.” McMahon expressed his intention to vigorously defend himself against the “baseless accusations” and looks forward to clearing his name.
Grant’s lawyer, Ann Callis, issued a statement expressing hope that the lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized. She urged WWE to take responsibility for the alleged misconduct of its leadership.
Grant is seeking unspecified monetary damages and aims to have the court void a $3 million nondisclosure agreement, alleging she received only $1 million. In 2022, McMahon stepped down as WWE’s CEO during an investigation into allegations similar to those in Grant’s lawsuit. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, assumed the role of interim CEO during the ongoing investigation, which involves widening allegations of misconduct and significant payments to women associated with WWE to maintain silence about affairs and alleged misconduct.
Vince McMahon, who acquired the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father in 1982, played a pivotal role in transforming it into an entertainment powerhouse. The organization surpassed the billion-dollar mark in annual sales last year, and on Tuesday, it secured a 10-year, $5 billion broadcast deal with Netflix. TKO Group was formed after WWE merged last April with the company that runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), creating a $21.4 billion sports entertainment company.
In a significant positive development for TKO Group, Dwayne Johnson, also known as “The Rock,” the actor, former WWE star, and the most followed American man on social media, has been appointed to the board of directors of TKO Group. The board appointment coincides with Johnson gaining full ownership of “The Rock” trademark, which was previously owned by WWE. Johnson, 51, expressed his excitement, stating, “Being on the TKO Board of Directors, and taking full ownership of my name, ‘The Rock,’ is not only unprecedented but incredibly inspiring as my crazy life is coming full circle.”
Johnson’s appointment brings a wealth of experience and star power to TKO Group, and it comes with him signing a new services and merchandising agreement with WWE, covering promotional, licensing, and other services. The multifaceted Johnson has been involved in various ventures, including his TV and film production company Seven Bucks Productions, Teremana Tequila, Zoa Energy, and Project Rock, the Under Armour apparel line. Moreover, Johnson is a partner in the recently merged United Football League.
The developments surrounding Vince McMahon’s resignation and Dwayne Johnson’s appointment mark a significant moment in the ongoing narrative of WWE and TKO Group. The legal proceedings and leadership changes will undoubtedly impact the trajectory of these prominent entities in the world of sports entertainment.