Vince McMahon Reinstated to WWE Board of Directors; Says He Must Approve Sale of WWE

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 6, 2023

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 08:  WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon speaks at a news conference announcing the WWE Network at the 2014 International CES at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on January 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The network will launch on February 24, 2014 as the first-ever 24/7 streaming network, offering both scheduled programs and video on demand. The USD 9.99 per month subscription will include access to all 12 live WWE pay-per-view events each year. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 10 and is expected to feature 3,200 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 150,000 attendees.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In a filing to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday, it was revealed that former WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon has been reinstated to WWE's board of directors.

According to the filing shared by Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics, former WWE co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson have also returned as board members, while JoEllen Lyons Dillon, Jeffrey Speed and Alan Wexler were removed from the board:

Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston

Vince McMahon is back on WWE's board of directors. <br><br>A new filing says effective immediately Vince puts himself, Michelle Wilson, and George Barrios on the board and removes independent directors Alan Wexler, JoEllen Lyons Dillon, and Jeffrey Speed.<a href="https://t.co/HGzFZNvaXM">https://t.co/HGzFZNvaXM</a> <a href="https://t.co/Y3HIRGearx">pic.twitter.com/Y3HIRGearx</a>

Per Thurston, the filing also shows that McMahon has made changes to WWE's bylaws that state no media rights deals or company sales can be completed without his approval.

Lauren Thomas of the Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday that McMahon was looking to return to WWE in some capacity after retiring in July while facing allegations of sexual misconduct. Thomas also reported that McMahon's return was linked to his desire to pursue a sale of the company.

In a statement released by McMahon, he explained the decision to come out of retirement and rejoin the board of directors:

"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. 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."

As mentioned by McMahon, his controlling stake in WWE enabled him to facilitate a return.

Joe Palazzolo, Ted Mann and Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal reported in July that McMahon paid four women a total of $12 million to remain silent about sexual relationships with him as well as allegations of sexual misconduct.

Among the women was a former WWE employee with whom McMahon allegedly had an extramarital affair. McMahon reportedly paid her $3 million between 2019 and January 2022.

While McMahon made the payments with his personal funds, he did not report them to WWE's board of directors, which was considered a violation since the payments were linked to WWE.

More recently, Palazzolo and Mann reported in December that former WWE referee Rita Chatterton requested $11.75 million in damages from McMahon in November while accusing him of sexually assaulting her in a limo in 1986.

The report also noted that another lawsuit was filed against McMahon in November by a female spa manager who said McMahon sexually assaulted her in 2011.

McMahon has reportedly denied the allegations by both Chatterton and the spa manager, and he has refused to pay them damages.

After McMahon stepped down as WWE chairman, CEO and head of creative in July, a trio of executives saw their power in the company increase significantly.

McMahon's daughter, Stephanie McMahon, was named chairwoman and co-CEO, along with former WWE president Nick Khan. Meanwhile, McMahon's son-in-law, Triple H, took over the creative direction of the product.

Per Thurston, McMahon wrote a letter to WWE's board of directors on Dec. 20 in which he expressed his desire to return as executive chairman and also gave a vote of confidence to Stephanie, Khan and Triple H:

Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston

Vince's December 20 letter to WWE's board, writing he wants to comeback as executive chairman.<br><br>"Stephanie, Nick, Paul, and the rest of the<br>management team have my full and unconditional support..." <a href="https://t.co/774gt3v74g">pic.twitter.com/774gt3v74g</a>

In response, the board suggested that McMahon's return would not be in the best interest of WWE because of ongoing investigations into his conduct by the U.S. Attorney's Office and SEC. That led McMahon to assert that he would not approve any media rights deals without being allowed back into the fold:

Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston

Reposting WWE's Board's December 27 email to Vince. <a href="https://t.co/dm41qFknO3">pic.twitter.com/dm41qFknO3</a>

Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston

Vince's December 31 email writing back to the Board, unhappy with their response.<br><br>"...unless I have direct involvement and input as Executive Chairman from the outset, I will not be able to support or approve any media rights deals or strategic transaction..." <a href="https://t.co/JR0sxpV05b">pic.twitter.com/JR0sxpV05b</a>

WWE's media rights deals with NBCUniversal and Fox are set to expire at the end of 2024, and negotiations are expected to occur this year for new deals.

A lack of support from the controlling stakeholder in the company could hamstring WWE in negotiations, which may explain why the board relented and allowed McMahon to return.

Questions will now persist whether McMahon will attempt to stretch his influence beyond media rights and sale negotiations, particularly when it comes to the creative side of the company.

McMahon seemingly attempted to allay those concerns in his statement, writing that WWE management has his "full support and confidence," and adding that he doesn't intend for his return to impact the existing management's "roles, duties, or responsibilities."

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