Over the past several weeks, the Wall Street Journal have released a number of reports regarding WWE’s Board of Directors investigating multi-million dollar “hush money” payments made by now-former CEO and Chairman Vince McMahon, prompting McMahon’s retirement from all active responsibilities within the company, although it now appears as though these weren’t the last of the payments yet to be unearthed.
The Wall Street Journal’s latest report reveals that between 2007 and 2009, $5million was paid by McMahon to Donald Trump’s charity, for both his appearance at Wrestlemania 23 in Detroit and Monday Night Raw during the shelved storyline that Trump had “purchased” the USA Network franchise from McMahon, a series of payments that should’ve been recorded as company expenses.
“An attorney for WWE said the payments to Mr. Trump should have been booked as business expenses because Mr. McMahon was a principal shareholder and the payments benefited the company. He declined to say why the payments benefited WWE.”-WSJ
The tax returns for the now defunct Trump Foundation in 2007 and 2009 show contributions of $4 million and $1 million, respectively, from WWE, figures that match up with the dates of Trump’s onscreen appearances for the company.
Trump’s Wrestlemania 23 appearance in 2007 saw him go head-to-head with McMahon in the ‘Battle of the Billionaires’, with Trump being represented by Bobby Lashley, whilst McMahon selected Umaga as his representative. The stipulation of the bout meant that the losing advocate would have their head shaved bald, with McMahon ultimately coming out on the wrong end of things.
The report then goes on to reveal the conditions demanded by Trump for the appearance, further validating the report regarding the $4 million payment, as well as revealing an interesting detail regarding the stipulation should the match have gone off script for any reason.
“A person who reviewed Mr. Trump’s contract for the WrestleMania appearance said that Mr. Trump directed Mr. McMahon to send a $4 million appearance fee to Mr. Trump’s charity. Mr. Trump had his associates review the contract to ensure that under no circumstances would Mr. McMahon be allowed to shave his head, even if Mr. Trump’s wrestler dropped dead in the ring, this person said.”-WSJ
It was then noted that Donald Trump had publicly boasted that he was bonused an additional $1 million because of the success of Wrestlemania 32, although WWE’s long-time attorney Jerry McDevitt strongly denied this claim, stating the following:
“Mr. Trump and WWE entered into a contract whereby WWE agreed to and did pay him personally an appearance fee of $1 million. At the same time, the McMahons made a personal contribution to the Trump Foundation of $4 million. There was no additional fee paid to Mr. Trump, or any additional contribution to the Trump Foundation, due to the success of the event.”-Jerry McDevitt
The Trump Foundation Charity was shut down in 2018 as part of a settlement with the New York state attorney general’s office following allegations that Trump had “misused the charity funds to further his 2016 presidential campaign, pay legal settlements and promote his business.”
As previously noted, the Wall Street Journal’s numerous reports into settlements reached by Vince McMahon over alleged sexual misconduct led to the then-CEO and Chairman announcing his retirement. Today’s report notes that McMahon’s exit came after “The Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York” began to look into the payments, furthering the idea that McMahon had little-to-no choice in the matter in order to protect the company.