World Wrestling Entertainment’s board of directors is investigating a secret $3 million settlement the company’s CEO Vince McMahon agreed to agree to with a former employee over an alleged affair, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The separation agreement, signed in January, is intended to prevent the now-former employee from discussing her relationship with McMahon or making disparaging remarks about him, according to the Journal. An email sent to WWE executives on March 30 shows that McMahon, 76, hired the former employee, 41, for a salary of $100,000 and then gave her an after beginning the alleged sexual relationship with her Salary increase to $200,000.
The report, which cites documents and reports from people familiar with the board’s investigation, says the board’s investigation began in April and over the years has uncovered other non-disclosure agreements, wrongdoing claims by former employees against McMahon and John Laurinaitis, WWE’s head of talent involves relationships.
The email sent to the board about the former WWE employee, who was hired as a paralegal in 2019, claimed McMahon gave the woman to Laurinaitis “like a toy.” The board is investigating the allegations in the email, the report said. WSJ reported that the board hired the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to conduct the investigation and that payments for other non-disclosure agreements, aside from the one involving the former employee, totaled millions of dollars.
An ESPN request for comment from WWE was not answered Wednesday night. The WSJ reported that a WWE spokesperson is fully cooperating with the board investigation and the relationship between the paralegal and McMahon was amicable.
McMahon bought what was then the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father Vincent J. McMahon in 1982 and grew the company into a global wrestling powerhouse and media conglomerate that has produced crossover stars such as Hulk Hogan, The Rock, “Stone Cold.” Steve Austin and John Cena.
WWE is a public company, but McMahon still holds the majority of shareholder voting rights.