Vince McMahon attends a press conference at MetLife Stadium on February 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Michael N. Todaro | Getty Images
World Wrestling Entertainment’s board of directors is investigating a secret $3 million settlement CEO Vince McMahon paid to a woman over an alleged affair, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing documents and people familiar with the matter. case.
The deal, which was reached in January, is intended to prevent the woman, who had worked as a paralegal for the company, from discussing her relationship with McMahon or making critical statements about the chief executive, the Journal added.
A WWE spokesperson told the newspaper that the company was cooperating with the council’s investigation and that the relationship between McMahon and the woman was consensual.
McMahon, 76, is married to Linda McMahon, who served as WWE CEO and Chief Small Business Administration Officer in former President Donald Trump’s administration, who is a WWE Hall of Famer .
The report said the board’s investigation, which began in April, also uncovered non-disclosure pacts related to allegations of misconduct by other women who had worked at WWE. Those deals involved McMahon and WWE executive talent John Laurinaitis, who wrestled as Johnny Ace, the Journal added.
WWE did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
The council retained Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, a New York-based law firm, to conduct the investigation, a source told the Journal. The firm did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
McMahon’s attorney, Jerry McDevitt, was not immediately available for comment. McDevitt told the Journal that the former employee made no harassment complaints against McMahon. He also said that WWE did not pay him any money, the newspaper said.
The news comes at a pivotal time for the wrestling and entertainment company. In May, executive Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of Vince and Linda McMahon, took time off from most of her responsibilities at the company. “WWE is a lifelong legacy for me and I look forward to returning to the company I love after taking this time to focus on my family,” she tweeted at the time.
WWE has also been the subject of speculation over a potential sale and its media rights. It has deals with Fox, USA Network, Hulu and NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service. The Hulu deal expires this year.
The company is publicly traded, but McMahon owns the majority of voting shares in WWE. He took over the business from his father, also named Vince McMahon, in 1982. Under the younger McMahon’s watch, WWE, then known as the World Wrestling Federation, grew into a global juggernaut. In the decades since, the company has spawned superstars such as Hulk Hogan, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Dave Bautista.
This is far from McMahon’s first brush with controversy. In 1993, he was indicted on federal charges related to anabolic steroids, which he and several professional wrestlers from the WWF stable used. He was acquitted of the charges in 1994. McMahon and company also came under fire in 1999 for suing a show after superstar Owen Hart, a brother of Bret, fell to his death from the rafters of an arena during a cascade. The company eventually agreed to pay the Hart family $18 million for the wrestler’s death.
Read the full Wall Street Journal report here.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.
– CNBC’s Candice Choi contributed to this report.