NEW YORK (AP) — World Wrestling Entertainment impresario Vince McMahon announced Friday he is retiring amid an investigation into alleged misconduct involving the flamboyant showman who turned a small wrestling company into a worldwide entertainment business.
In a brief statement issued by WWE, McMahon said he is retiring as the company’s chairman and CEO. He noted that he remains its majority shareholder.
McMahon stepped down temporarily as CEO and chairman of WWE in mid-June during an investigation into alleged misconduct. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported McMahon agreed to pay more than $12 million over the past 16 years to suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity.
“At 77, time for me to retire. Thank you, WWE Universe. Then. Now. Forever. Together. #WWE #thankful,” he wrote on Twitter.
McMahon was born in Pinehurst, N.C., grew up in New Bern and graduated from East Carolina University.
There was no mention of the investigation in statement from the company based in Stamford, Connecticut. McMahon said his daughter, Stephanie, who was named interim CEO and chairperson last month, will serve as chairperson and share CEO duties with Nick Khan, who joined the company in 2020.
“Our global audience can take comfort in knowing WWE will continue to entertain you with the same fervor, dedication, and passion as always,” he wrote in the statement, thanking WWE’s generations of fans all over the world.
McMahon first stepped aside from the top positions last month after the Journal reported at the time that he had agreed to pay $3 million to a former paralegal who said he sexually harassed her on the job. He was supposed to continue overseeing WWE’s creative content during the companies investigation. But then the newspaper reported that McMahon had agreed to pay the significantly larger sum of $12 million.
Four women — all formerly affiliated with WWE — signed agreements with McMahon that bar them from discussing their relationships with him, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the deals and documents it reviewed. McMahon has said he is cooperating with the company’s investigation.
McMahon has been 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.
The organization underwent a seismic transformation under McMahon with events like WrestleMania, a premium live production that draws millions of fervent viewers.
Revenue last year exceeded $1 billion for the first time and the company has television deals with Fox and NBCUniversal. Last month it announced a multiyear expansion of its original programming partnership with A&E.
WWE stars have become crossover sensations, including Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and John Cena.