WWE founder Vince McMahon resigned as chairman of TKO Group Holdings Friday after a former WWE employee accused him and another former executive of sexual assault and trafficking in a graphic federal lawsuit.
The 67-page lawsuit, filed by Janel Grant on Thursday, contains serious allegations of sexual misconduct, including that McMahon offered her up to a star wrestler for sex, and coerced her into a sexual relationship to keep her job and get promotions. The lawsuit also alleges McMahon, who is now 78, shared pornographic images and videos of her with other men and WWE employees.
In a statement sent to multiple outlets Friday announcing his resignation, McMahon continued to maintain his innocence, denying wrongdoing.
McMahon stepped down as CEO in 2022 amid an investigation into allegations that coincide with those in the lawsuit.
Grant began working for McMahon in 2019 after experiencing financial hardship and profound grief following the loss of both of her parents. McMahon promised her long-term employment with WWE. While Grant later came to learn she would need to perform sexual acts to keep her job, "she had no idea how sordid it would become, nor how the psychological torture and physical violence would leave her feeling helpless, isolated and trapped," said the lawsuit — which detailed some of the gruesome and disturbing conditions Grant says she was subjected to.
Former WWE executive John Laurinaitis is also a defendant in the lawsuit. The document details an instance in which McMahon and Laurinaitis sexually assaulted Grant in Laurinaitis' office while their colleagues were at work. She begged them to stop as they responded things like "no means yes."
While Scripps News does not typically name accusers in sexual abuse cases, Grant's representatives said she wished to go public, according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press.
"Ms. Grant hopes that her lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized," her attorney, Ann Callis, said in the statement. "The organization is well aware of Mr. McMahon's history of depraved behavior, and it's time that they take responsibility for the misconduct of its leadership."
The WWE is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
"WWE benefited financially from the commercial sex act venture orchestrated by McMahon, including by having wrestling talent, such as WWE Superstar, sign new contracts with WWE after McMahon presented Plaintiff as a sexual commodity for their use," said the lawsuit.
WWE's parent company TKO Group — which was recently formed by a merger between WWE and UFC — said in a statement obtained by the Wall Street Journal that McMahon "does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE."
The Wall Street Journal was first to report the news.
"While this matter pre-dates our TKO executive team's tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant's horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally," TKO Group said.
Representatives for McMahon also spoke out.
"This lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth," a spokesperson for McMahon said in a statement. "He will vigorously defend himself."
When she left the company, Grant was forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement to keep quiet, in exchange for payments from McMahon that were supposed to total $3 million, though she claims the payments stopped prematurely.
Grant is seeking an unspecified amount in monetary damages with her lawsuit, and asking that the court void the $3 million nondisclosure agreement, of which she claims she only received $1 million.
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