WWE co-founder, Vince McMahon, resigned on Friday from his role as executive chairman of TKO, the parent group of the pro wrestling juggernaut, after a lawsuit accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Former World Wrestling Entertainment 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 on Thursday in a Connecticut court, 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” that included sexual encounters with Laurinaitis and others.
McMahon denied the allegations in a statement announcing his resignation from the board of the TKO Group, which also controls the mixed martial arts brand Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“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,” McMahon 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.”
WWE is a ratings blockbuster that owes much of its success to entrepreneur and promoter McMahon, a longtime friend of Donald Trump.
After buying what was then the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father in 1982, McMahon turned the second-rate league into an entertainment giant.
Transformed into World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002, the league passed the billion-dollar mark in annual sales last year and on Tuesday Netflix sealed a 10-year, $5 billion broadcast deal with WWE.
But McMahon has come under scrutiny before. He stepped down as WWE chief executive officer in 2022 amid an internal investigation into allegations he had an affair with an employee and paid her $3 million to keep the matter secret.
His daughter Stephanie McMahon, was named interim CEO as the investigation continued amid widening allegations of misconduct and payments of millions of dollars to women formerly associated with WWE to keep quiet about affairs and alleged misconduct.