WWE founder and former chairman Vince McMahon has taken steps toward finalizing a return to the company nearly six months after he announced his retirement amid an ongoing sexual misconduct scandal.
McMahon, who stepped down as CEO in June but still owns the bulk of shareholder voting power, announced in a press release he is electing himself and former WWE co-presidents Michelle Wilson and George Barrios to the company’s board of directors. Following the actions, which were communicated to the board via written consent, McMahon, 77, is expected to re-assume a role as executive chairman of the board, though the move would still need to be approved.
According to the release, McMahon’s role will “enable unified decision making through the company’s upcoming media rights negotiations and a parallel full review of the company’s strategic alternatives, which Mr. McMahon believes is the right course of action and in the best interests of WWE and WWE shareholders amidst the current dynamics in the media and entertainment industry.”
“WWE is entering a critical juncture in its history with the upcoming media rights negotiations coinciding with increased industry-wide demand for quality content and live events and with more companies seeking to own the intellectual property on their platforms,” McMahon said, per the release. “The only way for WWE to fully capitalize on this opportunity is for me to return as executive chairman and support the management team in the negotiations for our media rights and to combine that with a review of strategic alternatives. My return will allow WWE, as well as any transaction counterparties, to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder.”
Thursday’s report follows recent rumblings that McMahon intended to return after stepping down in July. The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 13 that McMahon “has told people that he intends to make a come back at WWE” and “has said that he received bad advice from people close to him to step down and that he now believes the allegations and investigations would have blown over had he stayed.”
McMahon retired from WWE in July after the Journal revealed that he paid more than $12 million to four women over the past 16 years in an attempt to silence allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity. Among the alleged victims were a former WWE paralegal, whom McMahon reportedly had a secret affair with, a former wrestler and two other former employees.
In December, the Journal reported McMahon is now facing new allegations from two women over similar claims. The first claim came from a former spa manager at a Southern California resort who claims McMahon assaulted her in 2011. A lawyer representing the woman contacted McMahon’s lawyer, Jerry McDevitt, in November detailing the allegations. That same month, McDevitt also received a demand letter from a lawyer representing ex-WWE referee Rita Chatterton, who is seeking $11.75 million in damages in connection with a 1992 television interview where she said McMahon raped her in the back of a limousine, per the Journal.
Since McMahon’s departure, WWE has been led by his daughter and COO Stephanie McMahon and her husband Paul “Triple H” Levesque, as well as WWE president Nick Khan.