Wrestling impresario Vince McMahon has resigned as executive chairman of the board of TKO Group, the public company formed last year after Endeavor acquired World Wrestling Entertainment and merged it with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
His exit comes one day after a former WWE employee, Janel Grant, sued the company, McMahon and former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis, alleging sexual assault, trafficking and emotional abuse.
Grant filed the complaint Thursday in Connecticut, accusing McMahon of coercing her into a “sexual relationship,” sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of her with male colleagues and subjecting her to “increasingly depraved sexual demands” — including forcing her into “sexual encounters” with Laurinaitis and others — while she was employed at the company.
McMahon denied the allegations.
“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. I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations, and look forward to clearing my name,” he said in a statement.
“However, out of respect for the WWE Universe, the extraordinary TKO business and its board members and shareholders, partners and constituents, and all of the employees and Superstars who helped make WWE into the global leader it is today, I have decided to resign from my executive chairmanship and the TKO board of directors, effective immediately.”
According to the lawsuit Grant alleges that McMahon defecated on Grant while forcing her to “sexually gratify” him and a friend during a threesome. During another alleged encounter, McMahon and Laurinaitis (a retired pro wrestler known as Johnny Ace) took turns forcing themselves on Grant while she begged them to stop, telling her, “No means yes” and “Take it, b—.”
Grant claims that McMahon agreed to pay her $3 million in exchange for her silence.
In 2022, an investigation by WWE’s board found that McMahon made at least $14.6 million in payments between 2006 and 2022 for “alleged misconduct,” according to regulatory filings.
The settlements were made to women, including WWE employees, who alleged that McMahon initiated unwanted sexual contact and coerced women into performing sexual acts on him; in one case a woman claimed that McMahon sent her unsolicited nude photos of himself, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
McMahon’s alleged misconduct is the subject of ongoing investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice. Last year, WWE disclosed in a regulatory filing that federal law enforcement agents served McMahon with a grand jury subpoena and a search warrant in July.
“I am confident that the government’s investigation will be resolved without any findings of wrongdoing,” McMahon said last year in a statement to The Times.
Although McMahon denied the allegations that he had paid hush money payments to squash sexual misconduct claims, he stepped down from WWE in 2022. However, last January he orchestrated his return as chairman.
In April, he agreed to merge the WWE with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to form a new publicly traded company worth $21.4 billion. The new entity launched in September. It is controlled by Endeavor Group, the entertainment giant headed by Hollywood power broker Ari Emanuel. McMahon stayed on as executive chairman of the board.
Staff writer Christi Carras contributed to this report