Vince McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) longtime leader, allegedly paid out millions in hush money to a former female wrestler with whom he had a coercive sexual relationship and who was allegedly not brought back to WWE after spurning further sexual advances from the executive, according to a report published Friday in the Wall Street Journal.
McMahon allegedly paid out $7.5 million to the former wrestler, who claimed that McMahon coerced her into giving him oral sex, demoted her and then decided not to renew her contract in 2005 after she resisted further sexual encounters with him, per the Journal report. The wrestler and her lawyer reportedly negotiated a non-disclosure agreement with McMahon in 2018.
The Journal report details a total of $12 million allegedly paid out to four women over the last 16 years to quiet allegations of the 76-year-old McMahon's sexual misconduct.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the WWE board was investigating a secret $3 million payout from McMahon to a former employee, a paralegal, over an alleged affair. In the aftermath of that news, WWE announced McMahon would be stepping away from his duties as chairman and CEO -- replaced in the interim by his daughter Stephanie -- though he would maintain his role as head of creative. Sources told ESPN at the time that this was largely an optics play and McMahon was still running the company alongside WWE president Nick Khan.
In the new report Friday, the Journal cited documents and those familiar with the deals that McMahon paid the former wrestler $7.5 million for her silence. In addition, McMahon allegedly sent unsolicited naked photos of himself to a WWE contractor and sexually harassed her on the job, leading to about a $1 million non-disclosure settlement in 2008. In a 2006 agreement, a former WWE manager was paid $1 million to stay silent about McMahon initiating a sexual relationship with her.
The WWE board is continuing its investigation, which also includes allegations that WWE executive John Laurinaitis had a sexual relationship with the same former paralegal involved with the allegedly $3 million payment, per the Journal. Laurinaitis is also being investigated for an allegedly $1.5 million non-disclosure agreement with an employee claiming sexual misconduct in 2012. Laurinaitis is reportedly currently on administrative leave.
A WWE spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment from ESPN. A company spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that WWE is cooperating with the board's investigation, that McMahon's relationship with the paralegal was consensual and the company is taking the allegations seriously.
The WWE board has retained the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP to conduct the investigation, which was launched following anonymous emails being sent to directors earlier this year.
On June 27, two weeks after the first Wall Street Journal report, New York Magazine ran a story containing interviews with former WWE female referee Rita Chatterton and former WWE wrestler, Leonard Inzitari, claiming McMahon sexually assaulted Chatterton in 1986. Chatterton had previously made those claims in 1992, but this was the first time they were corroborated by a second source.
"I'll tell you why I'm hopping on the bandwagon now," Inzitari told writer Abraham Riesman, who is authoring the book "Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America." "There's worse stuff than that."
McMahon has been in public view more than usual since the initial Journal report June 15. One day after it was published, and hours after it was announced that he'd be stepping away from his CEO and chairman duties, McMahon showed up on WWE's "SmackDown" program. Three days later, he appeared on "WWE Raw." And last Saturday, McMahon was in attendance cageside at UFC 276 in Las Vegas, a rare non-WWE public appearance for pro-wrestling's most influential man.
McMahon was at the UFC event sitting with Stephanie; her husband, fellow exec and retired wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque; Khan; and sports media personality and WWE color commentator Pat McAfee.