Vince McMahon, the head of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), has resigned amid accusations of sex trafficking from former employee Janel Grant.
Grant alleges that McMahon and another executive, John Laurinaitis, sexually assaulted and trafficked her to attract wrestling talent.
McMahon, 78, denies the allegations and announced his resignation as the executive chairman of TKO, WWE’s parent company.
“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,” Mr McMahon said in a statement on Friday.
He added: “Out of respect for the WWE Universe, the extraordinary TKO business and its board members and shareholders, partners and constituents, and all of the employees and Superstars who helped make WWE into the global leader it is today, I have decided to resign from my executive chairmanship and the TKO board of directors, effective immediately.”
In a staff memo obtained by ESPN, WWE president Nick Khan shared that “Vince McMahon has tendered his resignation from his positions as TKO Executive Chairman and on the TKO Board of Directors”.
“He will no longer have a role with TKO Group holdings or WWE.”
A former WWE employee, Ms. Grant, has accused Mr. McMahon and Mr. Laurinaitis of trafficking her as a “sexual pawn” to attract wrestling talent.
Unemployed and facing her deceased parent’s bankruptcy, Ms. Grant claims Mr. McMahon pressured her into a physical relationship with promises of a job at WWE.
The lawsuit states that she subsequently worked at WWE’s Connecticut headquarters from 2019 to 2022.
She says she felt trapped “in an impossible situation… submitting to Mr McMahon’s sexual demands or facing ruin”.
The lawsuit alleges Mr McMahon “expected and directed Ms Grant to engage in sexual activity at the WWE headquarters, even during working hours”.
The accuser alleges that she was sexually assaulted by both defendants at WWE headquarters in June 2021.
In 2022, the WWE board initiated an investigation into a reported $3 million settlement between Mr. McMahon and a former employee with whom he had a consensual affair.
The 78-year-old stepped down temporarily, and his daughter assumed the roles of acting chief executive and chairperson.
Mr. McMahon returned as WWE chairperson in January 2023 after the investigation concluded.
In her recent legal filing, the accuser criticizes the special committee’s investigation as a “sham” and accuses the company of trying to cover up the issue.
She claims the committee never contacted her or requested documents. The accuser’s lawyer, Ann Callis, stated that her client aims to prevent further victimization of women through the lawsuit.
Mr. McMahon has played a key role in WWE’s global expansion, broadcasting its content in over 180 countries and 30 languages.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES