TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Former WWE CEO Vince McMahon has returned to the company nearly six months after abruptly retiring amid sexual misconduct allegations.
The announcement came a day after the Wall Street Journal reported McMahon was plotting a shakeup within the company’s board of directors that would include reinstating himself and two former co-presidents and directors.
“Today, we announce that the founder of WWE, Vince McMahon, will be returning to the Board,” Chairwoman & Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon, Co-CEO Nick Khan and Chief Content Officer Paul Levesque wrote in a statement Thursday. “We also welcome back Michelle Wilson and George Barrios to our board of directors. Together, we look forward to exploring all strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value.”
McMahon ceded creative control of the WWE’s television programs and other media ventures when he retired in July, but retained majority voting power through the company’s Class-B stock. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 77-year-old told the board last month that he intended to return because WWE’s media rights are heading into renegotiations, including its “Raw” and “SmackDown” programs, which air on USA Network and FOX, respectively.
Board members reportedly agreed that McMahon’s return to the company would not be in shareholders’ best interest, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.
Recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) indicate McMahon changed WWE bylaws so the board could not execute media rights deals – or sell the company – without his approval. McMahon currently controls 81% of the board’s total voting power.
“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 wrote in the SEC filings. “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.”
McMahon announced his retirement just over a month after the WWE’s board of directors announced an investigation into McMahon and John Laurinaitis, WWE’s head of talent relations, amid allegations that the CEO agreed to pay over $12 million to former employees with whom he had affairs. McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, and then-WWE President Nick Kahn took over as Co-CEOs following his departure.
Federal prosecutors and the SEC launched inquiries into the payments, the Wall Street Journal reported.
McMahon removed three board members to reinstate himself and the two former company leaders – JoEllen Lyons Dillon, Jeffrey R. Speed and Alan M. Wexler. WWE said Ignace Lahoud and Man Jit Singh have resigned from the board, effective Thursday.