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Vince McMahon retires as WWE CEO after sexual misconduct probe

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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 CEO Vince McMahon announced Friday that he was fully retiring after decades of leading the company founded by his father, a move that comes after it was revealed in June that the WWE’s was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the married McMahon had paid more than $12 million to four women, all of who had been affiliated with the WWE, over the past 16 years to cover up claims of sexual misconduct and infidelity.

McMahon is by far the best-known promoter of professional wrestling in the United States, following in the footsteps of his father Vince McMahon Sr., and his grandfather Jess McMahon, who had been leading promoters of the heavily scripted events in the northeast United States.

The younger McMahon, upon taking over control of the WWE from his father in 1982, transformed what had been a regional promotion into an international, multi-billion-dollar phenomenon, featuring stars including Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

On the heels of a Journal report in June that he paid a former WWE paralegal $3 million to keep her quiet about a relationship with him, McMahon had said he was stepping back from his role as CEO and chairman of Stamford, Connecticut-based company while the board’s probe proceeded. His daughter Stephanie McMahon was installed as interim CEO.

But he said at the time that he would retain control over creative content at the company, where he remains the majority shareholder, with about 32% of its stock.

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On Friday, McMahon announced that Stephanie and WWE President Nick Khan were taking over as co-CEOs, and that his daughter would become chairman of the company.

McMahon also will no longer have any role involving creative content.

“As I approach 77 years old, I feel it’s time for me to retire as Chairman and CEO of WWE,” McMahon said in a statement.

“I would like to thank my family for mightily contributing to our success, and I would also like to thank all of our past and present Superstars and employees for their dedication and passion for our brand,” he said.

“Most importantly, I would like to thank our fans for allowing us into your homes every week and being your choice of entertainment.”

McMahon’s wife Linda, a former WWE CEO herself, served as head of the Small Business Administration under then-President Donald Trump from 2017 through 2019.

Trump is a WWE Hall of Fame inductee. Before becoming president, he participated in wrestling shows put on by the company.

In 2007, at WrestleMania 23 in Detroit, Trump and McMahon picked a wrestler apiece to “fight” on their behalf in what was dubbed “The Battle of the Billionaires.”

After Trump’s wrestler, Bobby Lashley, bested McMahon’s proxy, Umaga, Trump used electric clippers to shave McMahon’s head.

On the heels of Vince McMahon’s retirement announcement, WWE’s stock price did not markedly change in after-hours trading, which saw a low volume of shares changing hands.

At the close of regular trading Friday, WWE had a market capitalization of about $4.9 billion.

– Additional reporting by CNBC’s Alex Sherman

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