Vince McMahon Sexual Assault Lawsuit Paused Pending Ongoing DOJ Investigation, Ex-WWE Employee’s Lawyer Says

A civil lawsuit accusing WWE founder Vince McMahon of sexual assault and sex trafficking has been put on hold pending the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Justice Department, according to the lawyer representing the former WWE employee who sued McMahon.

McMahon in January 2024 resigned from the board of TKO Group, the holding company majority owned by Endeavor that merged WWE and UFC, in the wake of the allegations made by the former WWE employee, Janel Grant. Grant sued the executive in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Her lawsuit names McMahon, WWE and WWE’s former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis as defendants.

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As the DOJ continues its investigation into WWE and McMahon, Grant’s suit has been put on hold for six months.

Ann Callis, the attorney representing Grant, said in a statement Thursday (May 30), “Ms. Grant has consented to a request by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to stay her case against Mr. McMahon, WWE and Mr. Laurinaitis, pursuant to a pending non-public investigation. We will cooperate with all appropriate next steps.”

In July 2023, WWE disclosed that federal law enforcement agents executed a search warrant and served a federal grand jury subpoena on McMahon in connection with the sexual-misconduct investigation, and demanded legal documents from WWE concerning the probe. To date, no charges have been brought in these investigations.

Nicholas Biase, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, declined to comment. Attorneys representing McMahon in the civil lawsuit did not respond to requests for comment.

McMahon has strongly denied the allegations detailed in Grant’s suit. In a statement released when he stepped down from the TKO board, he said, “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. 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.”

Grant’s lawsuit alleged that McMahon abused and sexually exploited her when he was CEO of the wrestling-entertainment company and that the exec allegedly trafficked her to other men in an attempt to recruit prospective wrestlers. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages as well as a declaratory judgment that a nondisclosure agreement Grant signed while she was a WWE employee is “void and unenforceable, and does not bar any of Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants McMahon and WWE.”

McMahon had stepped down as WWE’s CEO in June 2022 amid an investigation by the company’s board into alleged hush-money payments to women who accused him of sexual misconduct. As WWE’s chief exec, McMahon made payments totaling $19.6 million dating back to 2007 related to alleged misconduct, the company disclosed. In March 2023, McMahon paid WWE $17.4 million for costs the company incurred in investigating misconduct allegations against him.

McMahon returned to the company in January 2023 as executive chairman to lead efforts to sell WWE, which last year merged with UFC to form TKO Group Holdings as a separately traded public company in the deal engineered by Endeavor. To date, McMahon has earned about $1.5 billion from the sale of TKO Group stock. Following those sales, McMahon owns approximately 8 million shares in TKO Group, per its most recent filings; McMahon has pledged 7.17 million of his shares as collateral “to secure his obligations under loans” from Morgan Stanley Private Bank, National Association.

According to Grant’s lawsuit, McMahon and Laurinaitis — on WWE property and using WWE funding — both engaged in sexual assault and trafficking of Grant “both for their own pleasure and as a pawn to secure talent deals with prospective wrestlers they were recruiting.” McMahon “repeatedly used sex toys named after other WWE employees, wrestlers and performers to sexually groom Ms. Grant for trafficking to those same people,” per the suit.

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