WWE launches probe into allegations CEO Vince McMahon paid $3 million in hush money after affair
The WWE has launched a probe into allegations that CEO Vince McMahon paid $3 million in hush money to a former employee to keep quiet about an affair they had.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the wrestling promotion’s board of directors launched its investigation in April and found that McMahon used his own personal funds to pay a former female employee who signed an agreement with him and John Laurinaitis, the corporation’s head of talent relations.
The WWE has hired New York-based law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP to conduct the investigation, according to the Journal.
The board also reportedly received a copy of the $3 million agreement from one of McMahon’s attorneys on Monday, which details that the unidentified female employee received $1 million upfront from the settlement. The remaining $2 million in the agreement was spread out in a five-year pay period, sources told the Journal.
The company learned about the nondisclosure agreement through anonymous email tips from a friend of the former employee.
According to an email, McMahon hired the unnamed woman with a $100,000 base salary but increased it to $200,000 when their affair began. The email also claimed that the employee had a sexual relationship with Laurinaitis as well.
“My friend was so scared so she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry paid her millions of dollars to shut up,” the email to the board of directors said, referring to McMahon’s attorney, Jerry McDevitt.
The 41-year-old woman, who used to work in the promotion’s legal department, was promoted to become Laurinaitis’s personal assistant last year, the Journal reported.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP attorneys are also investigating WWE’s compliance and human resources programs and workplace culture.
McMahon, 76, who portrays the evil but beloved “Mr. McMahon” character on WWE programming, purchased the company formerly called World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father in 1982 and turned it into a global phenomenon, the Journal noted, introducing fans to popular wrestlers such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Hulk Hogan and John Cena.
In a statement, McDevitt told the Journal that the former employee hadn’t made any claims of harassment against his client, adding that the company “did not pay any monies” to her when she left the company.
The Hill has reached out to WWE for comment and more information.