Entertainment

Trump connections, legal woes, kittens and travel

As he faces a mountain of legal troubles, former WWE leader Vince McMahon is traveling, eating out and staying in touch with his friends and associates, including former President Donald Trump.

McMahon resigned as executive chairman of parent company World Wrestling Entertainment nearly three months ago after a former employee, Janel Grant, accused him in an explosive lawsuit of sexual abuse and trafficking. He denied the allegations. McMahon, 78, is also the subject of a federal criminal investigation, although he has not been charged.

NBC News and CNBC spoke to 11 people familiar with McMahon and WWE about how he spends his time — and how the global brand he built over four decades is evolving without him. Those individuals, including close associates and company members, declined to be named, citing ongoing legal cases and the confidential nature of internal company communications.

Multiple WWE insiders said he has had no contact with company executives and figures since his resignation. Mark Shapiro, chief operating officer of WWE parent company TKO Group Holdings, said in March that McMahon “does not work for the company, does not come to the office and will not return to the company.”

This also means that McMahon has not spoken to his son-in-law, WWE creative chief and former superstar Paul “Triple H” Levesque, or his daughter, Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, regarding matters related to the company, have indicated sources. While she headlined WWE’s WrestleMania event earlier this month, McMahon-Levesque, who worked alongside her father for more than 20 years and played roles in storylines, currently has no no involvement in the company, according to people familiar with the matter. Lévesque and McMahon-Levesque declined to comment through a spokesperson, as did a WWE representative.

Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H attend the UFC 276 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 2, 2022 in Las Vegas.Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC file

McMahon is nonetheless indelibly linked to the wrestling outfit he bought his father 42 years ago. However, it seems to have evolved, according to several sources. McMahon has maintained his other routines, and it’s as if he’s not bothered by his legal fights, two sources said.

For example, one afternoon in late March, McMahon flew back to the United States on a private plane from the sunny Turks and Caicos Islands — but he wasn’t alone, according to a relative. He had seven kittens and a puppy with him, all of which he brought home to be adopted by his friends, this person added.

“If anything, he’s enjoying life,” said the person, who added that McMahon also took a trip to Italy.

Jessica Rosenberg, McMahon’s attorney, declined to comment on aspects of the former WWE chief’s life reported in this article. However, in an emailed statement Tuesday, she criticized Grant’s lawsuit: “The claims in the lawsuit are false, defamatory, and completely without merit.” We intend to vigorously defend Mr. McMahon and are confident that he will be vindicated.

Life amidst litigation

The details of McMahon’s life after his WWE reign stand in stark contrast to Grant’s accusations, which paint a graphic portrait of a violent and controlling man. In the federal lawsuit filed Jan. 25, Grant’s attorneys said she was “a victim of physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and trafficking at WWE,” naming McMahon and the former WWE executive , John Laurinaitis. Both men denied the accusations made in the trial. The lawsuit also names WWE as a defendant. WWE and its parent company, TKO, said they took Grant’s allegations “very seriously.”

“Vince McMahon raped, trafficked and physically assaulted Janel Grant as part of his decades-long normalization of treating women within WWE as objects. He might have thought Janel would go away, but that wishful thinking couldn’t be further from the case,” Ann Callis, Grant’s attorney, said in a statement Wednesday. “Every day we strive to add to our mountain of evidence, speak with other victims, hire renowned experts in sex trafficking and coercive control, and prepare to vehemently litigate this case . »

Federal investigators seized a phone from McMahon and attempted to determine whether federal law was broken in the conduct surrounding Grant’s allegations, NBC News reported in February. WWE revealed last summer that investigators subpoenaed McMahon before a federal grand jury and executed a search warrant in July.

McMahon is cooperating with authorities, according to one of his relatives. McMahon believes authorities will not bring any charges against him and that Grant’s civil case will be settled amicably, a person close to the former wrestling executive said.

Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Grant’s lawyers said there had been absolutely no settlement negotiations with McMahon.

Vince McMahon speaks to an audience during a WWE fan recognition event in Hartford, Connecticut on October 30, 2010. Jessica Hill / AP Photo File

As his legal battles persist, McMahon is often chauffeured from his posh Connecticut home to Manhattan, according to one of his close sources. There, he eats with friends at restaurants like the old-fashioned Italian restaurant Il Tinello East on 46th Street, sees his longtime barber for haircuts every two weeks, and works out with his personal trainer several times a week, the source said.

Two other sources, however, say McMahon has otherwise been “fairly careful” and has often called his lawyers to make plans since Grant’s trial became public.

To stay in contact

McMahon also spoke to Trump, according to two of the people close to the wrestling impresario. The two billionaires are in contact regularly, according to a source close to McMahon, although it is not clear what exactly they discussed.

Trump and the McMahon family go back a long way: The former president hosted two WrestleMania events in Atlantic City in the late 1980s, engaged in a wrestling “feud” with McMahon in 2007, and is a member of the Hall of Fame of WWE. Linda McMahon, McMahon’s wife, served as head of the Small Business Administration in Trump’s cabinet, led a pro-Trump super PAC and is now a board member of the publicly traded Trump Media and Technology Group .

In 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported that McMahon paid $5 million in previously unrecorded expenses to the since-dissolved Donald J. Trump Foundation during two of the years Trump appeared on WWE programming.

Trump, who is seeking a second presidential term, has also been accused of sexual assault and faces costly civil and criminal legal issues, including four separate indictments. Trump has denied any wrongdoing in his various cases, pleading not guilty in each criminal proceeding, including a trial in New York that began Monday.

Another person close to McMahon said the two did not discuss their legal issues and that Trump did not provide legal advice.

A representative for Trump declined to comment.

Since his resignation, McMahon has been in contact with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena, according to sources. Johnson and Cena, two Hollywood superstars, are two of WWE’s biggest success stories.

Publicly, Johnson thanked TKO and WWE executives regarding his addition to the TKO board earlier this year. In February, Cena told radio host Howard Stern that “the whole thing is super unfortunate and it sucks,” while noting that he loves McMahon and has a “great relationship” with him. “But at the same time,” he added at the time, “I am also a strong advocate of accountability.”

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Vince McMahon and John Cena attend the WrestleMania 29 press conference at Radio City Music Hall on April 4, 2013 in New York City.File Eugene Gologursky / WireImage

Both Cena and Johnson are represented by the William Morris Endeavor Agency, part of the Endeavor Group, majority owner of TKO.

A spokesperson for Johnson declined to comment. A representative for Cena did not respond to requests for comment.

WWE in transition

This isn’t the first time WWE has faced controversy from its former longtime leader. McMahon was acquitted of federal criminal charges in the early 1990s related to the steroid scandal that engulfed the wrestling world at the time.

In 2022, he briefly resigned as WWE leader after the Journal reported that he had paid millions of dollars to several women to cover up his alleged extramarital affairs. The Journal also reported that other women had come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. WWE changed its financial reporting to reflect the payments. McMahon has denied any wrongdoing.

His daughter helped take over the company in the meantime, but McMahon-Levesque resigned when her father, who owned a majority stake in WWE, returned in early 2023. McMahon then struck a deal to merge the ventured with Endeavor Group’s UFC to form TKO. Longtime Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel is the CEO of Endeavor and TKO.

That deal, announced in April 2023, made McMahon executive chairman of the new company and he relinquished majority control of WWE. At the time, he told CNBC that he wouldn’t be “in the weeds” with creative decisions, but would weigh in on big decisions.

This marked a big change for McMahon. His family has been practicing this profession since the beginning of the 20th century. After buying the company from his father, known as “Vince Sr.”, the young McMahon went on to employ flamboyant superstars such as Hulk Hogan and The Rock, hosting glitzy pay-per-view events like WrestleMania, to create an international company. sensation. And while WWE is still defined in part by family, McMahon…

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News Source : www.nbcnews.com

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