EXCLUSIVE: Slammed by allegations of rape, defecation, sex trafficking and more, Vince McMahon is out at WWE and UFC parent company TKO Group Holdings.
“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,” McMahon said this evening of the scorching lawsuit against him filed earlier this week. “I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations, and look forward to clearing my name.”
More from Deadline
“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,” the WWE co-founder added.
McMahon’s abrupt exit was spawned by ex-WWE staffer Janel Grant’s detailed and shocking sexual assault suit of January 25. His resignation came after a long day of discussions and deliberations among top players at TKO and WWE as the blast radius of Grant’s legal action became apparent and the corporate situation increasingly untenable for McMahon.
Explicit in its depiction of Grant as a constantly abused sexual punching bag for McMahon and various WWE executives and at least one unnamed “WWE Superstar” during her time at the company from 2019 to 2022, the suit seeks various damages and a voiding of the NDA the former staffer was forced to sign. A McMahon spokesperson on Thursday called Grant’s lawsuit “replete with lies” and declared their client would fight it in court.
Today TKO referred Deadline to McMahon’s statement when contracted for more on the situation. As for who may take over McMahon’s now vacated executive chairman gig at the company or even if that position will continue, it is all TBD, sources says.
WWE boss Nick Khan tonight told staffers in an internal email that McMahon had resigned, and “will no longer have a role with TKO Group Holdings or WWE.”
While sudden, McMahon’s fall from his TKO perch amidst the sexual abuse allegations follows his ouster in 2022 from the WWE he co-founded due to “alleged executive misconduct.” That misconduct, which named WWE talent relations chief John Laurinaitis, came as scores of multi-million dollar payoffs to former female employees and others were made public.
One of those revelations included a $3 million payoff to a woman McMahon had an affair with. In her complaint, Grant says McMahon agreed to pay her $3 million in 2022 to keep their sexual relationship quiet if she signed an NDA. Now seeking to get that NDA neutered, Grant signed it at the time, but says she has only received $1 million from McMahon so far.
Named as a defendant in Grant’s suit, Laurinaitis left WWE in 2022.
Though canned from the company by the WWE board in early 2022, the controversy courting McMahon returned not long afterwards, put a new board in place and completed the sale of WWE to Endeavor. Out of that windfall, TKO was formed last year. In her suit, Grant refers to the internal WWE probe into claims against McMahon as a “sham.”
Having previously boasted about McMahon’s role in the Endeavor-owned company, TKO, where Ari Emanuel is CEO, said yesterday after Janel Grant’s assault and abuse lawsuits was filed that “Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE.” They went on to distance themselves from McMahon by adding: “While this matter pre-dates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”
This latest suit against McMahon was filed just over 48 hours after it was announced that TKO had made a 10-year, $5 billion deal with Netflix for the streamer to get in the ring starting next year with WWE‘s Monday Night Raw, as well as other programs from the company. The disturbing lawsuit and now McMahon’s resignation also come as WWE’s 37th Royal Rumble is set for tomorrow. Streaming and on pricey pay-for-view, the Rumble features wrestlers from the Raw and Smackdown units meeting up in St. Petersburg, Florida and fighting it out in the ring. The lucrative event will clearly not feature Vince McMahon now.
Best of Deadline