WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon has reportedly agreed to pay more than $12 million in “hush money” to four women to keep secret allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity over the last 16 years, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.
The payouts went to four women who were formerly affiliated with WWE, all who signed agreements with McMahon that prohibit them from discussing potential legal claims against or their relationships with him, according to people familiar with the deals and documents reviewed by WSJ.
The previously unreported settlements include a $7.5 million pact with a former wrestler who alleged McMahon coerced her into giving him oral sex, then demoted her, and ultimately, declined to renew her contract in 2005 after she resisted further sexual encounters. The wrestler and her attorney approached McMahon in 2018 and negotiated the payment in return for her silence, according to the people familiar with the matter.
In another previously unreported deal, a WWE contractor presented the company with unsolicited nude photos of McMahon that she reported receiving from him, and alleged that he had sexually harassed her on the job, according to people familiar with her 2008 nondicslosure agreement. Vince agreed to pay her roughly $1 million, the people said.
Furthermore, in a 2006 agreement, a former manager who had worked 10 years for Vince before he allegedly initiated a sexual relationship with her was paid $1 million to keep quiet about it, according to people familiar with the deal.
The WSJ previously broke the news about a $3 million “hush pact” reached in January of this year between Vince and a former WWE paralegal who he allegedly had an affair with. That led to the current WWE Board of Directors investigation into Vince and WWE Talent Relations head John Laurinaitis.
The Board is now investigating the 2018 deal with the former wrestler, and the aforementioned pact with the paralegal.
It’s been known that The Board is also investigating whether Laurinaitis had a sexual relationship with the same former paralegal, but word now is that The Board is looking at a $1.5 million nondisclosure agreement reached in 2012 with an employee involving misconduct claims against Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis previously worked as the Talent Relations head for eight years until being forced to step down and take a smaller role in 2012. His demotion came around the time as the $1.5 million deal with the employee, who alleged that she had an affair with Laurinaitis and that he demoted her after she broke it off, according to people familiar with the NDA.
Regarding the former paralegal, Vince reportedly met her at his Stamford, CT condo building, where both were living. She was brought into the company as a legal assistant in 2019, and actually never applied for the job, according to people close to the matter. WWE reportedly placed her in the legal department because her resume said she had attended law school.
The woman allegedly often talked with colleagues in the department about her close relationship with Vince, and that chatter was so frequent that her boss asked her to stop, saying she was making other employees uncomfortable, according to one of the people. In 2021 the woman was transferred from the legal department to Talent Relations under Laurinaitis, who returned to the role he had held a decade earlier.
WWE considered raising the woman’s annual salary from $100,000 to around $300,000, at McMahon’s request, according to people familiar with the matter. The company settled on a base salary of $200,000 and a director-level position. An anonymous email sent to the Board on March 30 of this year, and viewed by WSJ, alleged that McMahon increased the woman’s salary after he began a sexual relationship with her. The email alleged that McMahon “gave her like a toy” to Laurinaitis.
The WSJ couldn’t determine whether the Board investigation includes the nondisclosure agreements involving the contractor and the former manager, or how far back the investigation will go. A spokesman for the Board’s independent directors declined to comment. Laurinaitis and an attorney for McMahon did not respond to requests for comment.
As we’ve noted, WWE is cooperating with the Board’s investigation. A WWE spokesman previously stated that Vince’s relationship with the paralegal was consensual, and that WWE is taking the allegations seriously. McMahon’s longtime attorney, Jerry McDevitt, previously stated that the former paralegal hadn’t made any claims of harassment against McMahon and that “WWE did not pay any monies” to the former employee “on her departure.”
The investigation by the Board’s outside counsel at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP was triggered by a series of anonymous emails that Directors received earlier this year, as previously reported.
As we’ve noted, it was revealed on Wednesday, June 15 that WWE’s Board of Directors has been investigating Vince over the “secret $3 million settlement” he made to the former paralegal that was hired in 2019. Laurinaitis is also being investigated for his involvement, and the Board is looking into other instances with former female employees as well. It was then announced on Friday, June 17 that Stephanie returned from her leave of absence to act as the Interim CEO & Interim Chairwoman after Vince voluntarily stepped away from his Chairman & CEO corporate duties, while still continuing his creative responsibilities. It was then revealed on Monday, June 20 that WWE’s Senior Vice President and RAW/SmackDown Executive Producer Bruce Prichard is also now working as the Interim Senior Vice President of Talent Relations, filling in for Laurinaitis during the investigation. You can find full details at the links below, including statements from Vince and Stephanie, full details on the anonymous e-mails that led to the announcements, and more. Today’s update from the WSJ is the first significant update since June.
Stay tuned to WrestlingHeadlines.com for more on the WWE investigation and the fallout. Below are links to our various reports on the McMahon – Laurinaitis situation.
FULL COVERAGE OF THE VINCE MCMAHON – JOHN LAURINAITIS ALLEGATIONS: