Vince McMahon announced his retirement from World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. on Friday, officially leaving the company that he built into the world’s most powerful wrestling organization over four decades.
“As I approach 77 years old, I feel it’s time for me to retire as Chairman and CEO of WWE,” McMahon wrote in a news release Friday afternoon that consisted just of two paragraphs of quotes from him.
McMahon has been embattled of late, taking a leave of absence from the helm of WWE
amid reports that he had an affair with a worker and paid millions in hush money to cover it up. McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon, had taken over his position on an interim basis, and will now be permanent co-chief executive of the company with Nick Khan, who had been serving as president. The WWE had launched an internal probe on the matter.
“I am extremely confident in the continued success of WWE, and I leave our company in the capable hands of an extraordinary group of Superstars, employees, and executives – in particular, both Chairwoman and Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon and Co-CEO Nick Khan,” Vince McMahon wrote in his statement. “As the majority shareholder, I will continue to support WWE in any way I can.”
News of McMahon’s departure sent ripples throughout an industry convinced that the icon they called “Vince” and “Mr. McMahon” would only leave on his terms.
“I’m shocked, but I think it clearly has to do with the recent allegations. Never thought he’d do it,” Bryan Alvarez, a former wrestler, author of the best-selling “The Death of WCW” and a radio/podcast host on Wrestling Observer Live, told MarketWatch.
“I would think it would’ve been very difficult for WWE to negotiate live rights fees for [TV shows] Raw and Smackdown with the Vince story hovering in the background,” Brandon Thurston, an editor at Wrestlenomics, told MarketWatch.
Vincent K. McMahon purchased the parent company of the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father, Vincent J. McMahon, in 1982, and started an overhaul of the organization that reshaped the industry. McMahon immediately moved to get WWF programming on syndicated television nationwide and used revenue generated by TV deals, advertising and tape sales to land talented wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Andre the Giant from rival promoters.
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In an October 1999 initial public offering, WWE sold shares at $17 apiece, and the stock quickly soared to $30.50, valuing WWE at $172.5 million. The IPO qualified as a body-slam before the share price gradually declined and bottomed out at $6.86 in 2002. WWE’s share price languished until late 2016, when it began a steep climb to a record $96.73 in 2018. The stock subsequently slumped to $33.93 in late 2019 but has since steadily rebounded.
Shares closed at $66.22 on Friday, and rose less than 0.5% in after-hours trading following the announcement.