Still in the ring. Hours after Vince McMahon confirmed he would be stepping down as the CEO and Chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), he was in great spirits to open the SmackDown Live show.
“It is a privilege as always to stand before you here tonight, the WWE universe,” McMahon, 76, said during the Friday, June 17, broadcast of the wrestling special. “I’m here simply to remind you of the four words we just saw in what we call our WWE signature. Those four words are: then, now, forever, and the most important word is together. Welcome to ‘SmackDown!’”
While the North Carolina native soon exited the stage while the show began, he made headlines hours earlier as the company announced he’d step back from his corporate gig. The media organization’s Board of Directors noted in a Friday statement that McMahon had “voluntarily” decided to step down from his position as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board while the company investigates his behavior. (McMahon was accused of misconduct after reportedly paying a $3 million settlement to conceal an alleged affair, according to a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month.)
“I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the Special Committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation,” the former wrestler said in a statement at the time. “I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are.”
WWE named McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon, as interim CEO and Chairwoman in his absence.
“I love this company and am committed to working with the Independent Directors to strengthen our culture and our Company; it is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace,” Stephanie, 45, wrote in a Friday statement. “I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the Special Committee complete its work, including marshaling the cooperation of the entire company to assist in the completion of the investigation and to implement its findings.”
Vince has led WWE for decades after inheriting World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) from his father, Vincent McMahon, and turning it into a successful franchise. He is credited with changing the WWWF’s name to WWE in 2002.
“If you built something, you should want it to grow and prosper, with or without a family member,” the Alpha Entertainment founder said during an appearance on the “Pat McAfee Show” in March, referring to wife Linda McMahon, son Shane McMahon and daughter Stephanie, who all work for WWE. “The business is best for everyone. You have to look at family members as well as employees. You have to do what’s right for the business.”
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