Vince McMahon, the co-founder of WWE, resigned from his role as executive chairman of TKO, the parent group of the professional wrestling organisation, following a lawsuit that accuses him of sexual misconduct.
The lawsuit was filed by former World Wrestling Entertainment employee Janel Grant, who sued the company, McMahon, and former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis for sexual assault, trafficking, and emotional abuse, several online news platform said on Saturday.
Filed on Thursday in a Connecticut court, Grant’s complaint alleges that McMahon coerced her into a sexual relationship, shared sexually explicit photos and videos of her with male colleagues, and made “increasingly depraved sexual demands” that involved encounters with Laurinaitis and others.
In response, McMahon issued a statement denying the allegations and announcing his resignation from TKO Group’s board, which also controls the mixed martial arts brand Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). “I stand by my prior statement that Ms. Grant’s lawsuit is replete with lies… I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations and look forward to clearing my name,” McMahon stated.
He also said his decision to resign was out of respect for WWE, TKO’s business partners, shareholders, employees, and fans.
WWE has become a ratings juggernaut under McMahon’s leadership, transforming from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) into World Wrestling Entertainment. McMahon, a longtime friend of Donald Trump, purchased the WWF from his father in 1982 and turned it into an entertainment powerhouse. In 2022, WWE passed the billion-dollar mark in annual sales and recently sealed a 10-year, $5 billion broadcast deal with Netflix.
However, McMahon has faced scrutiny before, stepping down as WWE CEO in 2022 amid an internal investigation into allegations of an affair with an employee and subsequent hush money payment. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, took over as interim CEO as the investigation expanded to include wider misconduct allegations and payments to silence women formerly associated with WWE.