On July 22, 2022, Vince McMahon announced he was retiring as WWE CEO amid allegations of sexual misconduct and paying hush money.
On January 6, 2023, McMahon returned to WWE as a member of the board of directors. McMahon claimed, as the controlling shareholder, he needed to return to help lead the upcoming round of media rights negotiations.
Appearing on The Bill Simmons Show, WWE CEO Nick Khan addressed Vince's return.
"From the inside, it's not that insane to me, but when you're on the inside, you sort of see things that are coming and know what might be coming. My thought has always been, there's only one boss in WWE, and Vince is the founder and creator of the company, he's also the controlling shareholder, that's not a work term, that's a legal term. It was always my point of view, always Stephanie's point of view, that at some point, he could come back. The way he played it, to me, was smart in that he went away for five or six months, which the audience seems to like when somebody does that. He came back and took control back of his company as a controlling shareholder. With that controlling share gave him a lot of authority and he used it. I applaud him for doing so," said Nick.
Upon Vince's return, Stephanie McMahon stepped down from her role as Co-CEO.
Asked if Vince forced his way back in by using his controlling shareholder status, Khan said, "I didn't see it as a force. I think Vince saw a ton of things coming at him and us and he thought, one thing he's always said, he'll do whatever is best for business. At that moment, he saw what was best for business was for him to step away for a while, so he did. He really did step away. There was no, 'Why are you doing this? I wouldn't do it that way.' It was total freedom to Stephanie, myself, and Triple H on the creative side. It's only been a week, but I believe what he said publicly about 'I'm here to engage in strategic alternatives in the media rights,' so far the engagement has been that and other board issues. I made it a point, and so did others, to see him once a month or so while he was sitting out. I think those things are important. It's no different than when other mutual friends of ours, who have gone through hard times professionally, that's when they sort of need to hear from folks most. In staying in contact that way, which was mostly social and personal, there was never a moment of 'do it this way or that way.'"
Khan said he was surprised in the moment when Vince announced he was retiring, but after things sunk in, it made sense to him given everything that was going on with the allegations.
Asked if he was surprised that Vince ended up returning, Khan replied, "No, that's Vince. Anyone who knows him who thought, with a tweet when he stepped down, anyone who believed that was permanent, doesn't know him. That was never going to happen. I'm appreciative of the fact that he gave it five - six months, let the dust settle a little, and coming back the way that he's coming back."
When it was pointed out that WWE was having success without Vince and how that may have gotten to Vince, Khan responded by saying, "Having been on the inside, keep in mind, as a publicly traded company, if there was an official succession plan, that would have had to have been filed a long time ago. I think the succession plan in his mind is the one that he put in place when he stepped down, which was Triple H runs creative and Stephanie and I co-run the company. I never got a sense from him of any sort of bitterness or anything. He seemed, for the first month of his hiatus, thrilled. You think of how hard he's worked, a month off would be amazing. He went to Italy, whatever it is was, the things that we all wish we could do while we're in the mix of 'empire building.' The first month was amazing, I think by month five, he was getting ready to return. The strategic alternative process is a real one, he's hyped for it, I haven't seen any heat from him from anybody who is at WWE or with WWE. There is no commentary from him, certainly to me and I've been in touch with him a lot, there is no 'Why did Paul [Triple H] and you hire this? Why did Stephanie do that?' There's been none of that."
Triple H has reportedly told talent during meetings that he will continue to lead creative.
WWE is reportedly exploring options regarding the sale of the company and has taken action in engaging with outside advisors to help with negotiations for upcoming media rights deals.
Multiple lawsuits by shareholders have been filed against McMahon since his return with claims that he "breached fiduciary duties as controlling stockholder" by trying to “impose his personal will on WWE and its [board] by purporting to adopt a package of invalid and inequitable bylaw amendments that would hamstring the Board from making critical business decisions.”
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