STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Wrestling icon Vince McMahon resigned Friday from WWE's parent company t he day after a former employee filed a federal lawsuit accusing him and another former executive of serious sexual misconduct, including offering her to a star wrestler for sex.
McMahon stepped down from the his position as executive chairman of the board of directors at WWE’s parent company, TKO Group Holdings, according to a statement released late Friday. He continued to deny wrongdoing following the lawsuit filed by Janel Grant, who worked in the company’s legal and talent departments.
The suit includes allegations that McMahon, now 78, forced Grant into a sexual relationship in order for her to get and keep a job and passed around pornographic pictures and videos of her to other men, including other WWE employees.
The AP typically does not name accusers in sexual assault cases, but Grant’s representatives said she wished to go public. Her lawyer declined to comment Friday.
McMahon's statement said that he was leaving the board “out of respect” for WWE and TKO Group.
“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,” he said in the statement. “I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations, and look forward to clearing my name.”
McMahon was the leader and most recognizable face at WWE for decades. When he purchased what was then the World Wrestling Federation from his father in 1982, wrestling matches took place at small venues and appeared on local cable channels. WWE matches are now held in professional sports stadiums, and the organization has a sizable overseas following.
WWE merged last April with the company that runs Ultimate Fighting Championship to create the $21.4 billion sports entertainment company TKO Group Holdings, and McMahon served as that group’s executive chairman of the board until Friday.
TKO Group's representative referred media inquiries about McMahon's resignation to his statement. Deadline first reported that he was stepping down.
“Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE,” TKO Group said earlier this week. “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.”
Grant also names as defendants in the lawsuit the WWE and John Laurinaitis, an ex-pro wrestler and the company’s former head of talent relations and general manager. WWE and Laurinaitis did not return requests for comment Friday.
According to the lawsuit, McMahon lived in the same building as Grant and in 2019 offered to get her a job at WWE after her parents died.
She alleges that he eventually made it clear that one of the requirements of the job was a physical relationship with him and later with Laurinaitis and others.
Over the next few years, McMahon lavished her with gifts including a luxury car, the suit says.
It also alleges that McMahon offered one of his star wrestlers — a person not named in the lawsuit — sex with Grant as a perk in 2021.
“WWE benefited financially from the commercial sex act venture orchestrated by McMahon, including by having wrestling talent, such as WWE Superstar, sign new contracts with WWE after McMahon presented Plaintiff as a sexual commodity for their use,” the lawsuit states.
Grant is seeking unspecified monetary damages and to have the court void a $3 million nondisclosure agreement, of which she alleges she received only $1 million.
“Ms. Grant hopes that her lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized,” her attorney, Ann Callis, said in a statement Thursday. “The organization is well aware of Mr. McMahon’s history of depraved behavior, and it’s time that they take responsibility for the misconduct of its leadership.”