Breaking Down Former WWE Boss Vince McMahon's Huge Net Worth
Vince McMahon is an American original. Few people have had a bigger impact on professional sports and entertainment than McMahon, the embattled former chairman and CEO of pro wrestling juggernaut WWE.
Behind McMahon's leadership, WWE grew from a regional pro wrestling company founded by his father in the 1950s to a worldwide phenomenon that surpassed $1 billion in annual earnings for the first time in 2021.
McMahon called it a career with the company in July 2022. So how will it all ultimately impact the legacy, net worth and fortune of one of the most influential, richest and most controversial sports figures of all time?
WWE Rocked by Sex Scandal
Let's start with the basics. Vince McMahon announced his retirement as World Wrestling Entertainment chairman and CEO on July 22, 2022, at the age of 76. He handed the reins of the organization to his daughter, Stephanie McMahon, and current WWE president Nick Khan, who took over as co-CEOs. Stephanie will be the new WWE chairman as well.
The announcement came one month after Vince McMahon voluntarily stepped down as the CEO of WWE on June 17, 2022, after allegations came to light that he'd paid a former employee $3 million in "hush money" to cover up an affair between the two. Another story from The Wall Street Journal surfaced in early July and reported that McMahon had paid $12 million to four former WWE female employees or contractors in the past 16 years to "suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity."
McMahon, who has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1966, handed interim control of the company in his absence to his daughter, Stephanie, after the first report surfaced. Stephanie has worked alongside her father since the late 1990s, and she served as interim CEO and chairwoman while the WWE conducted an investigation into the allegations. But according to ESPN.com, Vince McMahon still maintained control of WWE creative after that initial allegation surfaced in June, and his "stepping down was done for optics."
The transfer of power in the wrestling world seemed to be more official in late July, one month before McMahon's 77th birthday.
"As I approach 77 years old, I feel it’s time for me to retire as chairman and CEO of WWE," Vince McMahon said in his retirement statement. "Throughout the years, it's been a privilege to help WWE bring you joy, inspire you, thrill you, surprise you, and always entertain you. I would like to thank my family for mightily contributing to our success, and I would also like to thank all of our past and present Superstars and employees for their dedication and passion for our brand. Most importantly, I would like to thank our fans for allowing us into your homes every week and being your choice of entertainment.
"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. As the majority shareholder, I will continue to support WWE in any way I can. My personal thanks to our community and business partners, shareholders, and board of directors for their guidance and support through the years."
Vince McMahon's rise to power and subsequent fall from grace is one of the most compelling stories in American sports history. How did an unwanted, 12-year-old boy with dreams of becoming a pro wrestler become one of the richest men in America?
Looking For His Place in the World
Vincent J. McMahon never laid eyes on his son, Vince McMahon, until the boy was 12 years old. The elder McMahon left his wife, Victoria, when his youngest son was just a baby and took his older son, Rod, with him.
Raised by his mother and a succession of sadistic stepfathers, Vince McMahon went by Vince Lupton until the late 1950s, when he first met his biological father and became enthralled by his business, which was pro wrestling.
The younger McMahon took his father's name and told him he wanted to be a pro wrestler. His father had other plans. He would help turn his son into the greatest wrestling promoter who ever lived.
Coming From a Family of Promoters
There's some debate as to who actually founded the company that would one day become the WWE. While there's no doubt that Vincent J. McMahon was one of its founders, it's unclear if his father, pro wrestling and pro boxing promoter Jess McMahon, had a role in starting the Capitol Wrestling Federation in 1953, which specialized in regional events on the East Coast.
In 1963, Vincent J. McMahon renamed his company the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF)m and in 1969, one year after Vince McMahon graduated with a business degree from East Carolina University, he landed his first job in pro wrestling as one of the in-ring announcers for WWWF's All-Star Wrestling events.
The 1970s: Battle for Wrestling Supremacy
By 1971, Vince McMahon had been assigned his first territory for the WWWF. He was given the job of promoting pro wrestling matches in Maine, and he also stepped up his national profile by becoming the organization's play-by-play announcer for televised matches.
McMahon's ambition appeared to match his skill. By the late 1970s, he and his father had tripled the WWWF's television syndication rights.
At the same time, Vince McMahon also successfully pushed for a name change, from WWWF to the World Wrestling Federation, otherwise known as WWF.
Young Vince McMahon Once Promoted a Muhammad Ali Fight
Vince McMahon's skills at promoting pro wrestling translated to other sports and events as well — a pattern that would continue over the rest of his career.
In 1976, McMahon helped organize one of the strangest fights of all time, when he brought Muhammad Ali to Japan to fight pro wrestling champion Antonio Inoki, which landed Ali a purported $6 million payday.
The fight had strange rules for the time, similar to what we now know as mixed martial arts, and ended in a draw after 10 rounds. Fought in front of a sold-out crowd of 14,500, the fight was reportedly watched by 1.4 billion people worldwide.
'He Probably Wouldn't Have Sold Me the Shares'
In 1982, Vince McMahon and his wife, Linda, bought controlling interest in the WWF from his father, Vincent J. McMahon, who was sick and would die several years later.
Vince McMahon had no less than the obliteration of the competition on his mind. He quickly broke from the National Wrestling Alliance, which purported to "regulate" the sport and protected regional rights. McMahon and WWF were coming for the whole pie. Not just a slice.
"(My father) probably wouldn't have sold me the shares, had he known what I planned to do with the company," McMahon said in later interviews.
The Golden Age of Professional Wrestling
As popular as professional wrestling has remained over the years, there will never be another time for the sport like the 1980s. This was largely thought of as the "Golden Age" or "Golden Era" of wrestling, and it exploded into a worldwide phenomenon.
That's thanks in large part to two men — Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan. Beginning when McMahon signed Hogan to WWF in 1983, the two launched a worldwide promotional campaign that left all of the other pro wrestling outfits in the dust, leading to "Hulkamania" and WWF's first Wrestlemania in 1985.
Few events in pro wrestling history can compare to Wrestlemania III in 1987, when Hogan squared off against Andre the Giant in front of over 90,000 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Pro Wrestling Reaches Maximum Capacity
So one of the things that happens when you create a really amazing product and make a lot of money off of it is, inevitably, someone is going to copy your idea and come for your share of the pie.
This is what happened to Vince McMahon and the WWF in the early 1990s. As the "Golden Age" of wrestling was coming to an end, billionaire Ted Turner founded World Championship Wrestling (the WCW), the first major threat to the WWF after a decade of dominance in pro wrestling.
McMahon and his company were in for the fight of their lives.
Change from WWF to WWE Ushers in New Era
After narrowly surviving its decade-long battle with Ted Turner's WCW, the WWF came out on top in the end, which resulted in Vince McMahon actually buying the rival pro wrestling circuit and folding it into the WWF, with their other competitor, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), filing for bankruptcy.
It was in this same period — the late 1990s and early 2000s — that the WWF changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) after a trademark dispute with the World Wildlife Foundation, and McMahon ushered in the "Attitude Era" of pro wrestling. He took on the "Evil Mr. McMahon" persona to directly clash with superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, who occupied the role Hulk Hogan once filled in the 1980s.
Decades of Dominance Means Staggering Net Worth
The WWE has spent the last two decades largely unchallenged in the realm of professional wrestling. That's meant victory after victory with ratings as well as Vince McMahon branching out to make money in a myriad of different ways, including a pro football league, the XFL, in the early 2000s.
The WWE family of properties now extends to video games, movies and even the WWE Network, founded by McMahon in 2014. In 2021, the WWE's annual earnings surpassed $1 billion for the first time and McMahon's personal net worth was estimated by Forbes (at the time of his retirement) at a whopping $2.4 billion.
How Vince McMahon Spends His Vast Fortune
As one of the wealthiest men in America, Vince McMahon has a vast network of real estate holdings that reflect his estimated $2.3 billion net worth.
McMahon reportedly owns a $12 million penthouse in New York City, a $40 million mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, and a $20 million vacation home in Boca Raton, Florida, where he also keeps a 47-foot yacht.
McMahon's Long History of Sexual Misconduct Allegations
The scandal that led to Vince McMahon retiring as the CEO and chairman of the WWE in 2022 after allegations of paying $12 million in hush money to silence allegations of sexual misconduct. It wasn't the first time accusations were levied against the 76-year-old billionaire.
In 1992, on "The Geraldo Rivera Show," former WWF referee Rita Marie accused McMahon of raping her in 1986.
In 2006, McMahon was accused of sexual harassment by a worker at a tanning salon in Boca Raton, Florida, where he owns a vacation home.
Vince McMahon's Enduring Legacy
No one will ever have the impact in professional wrestling Vince McMahon did. He built one of the most influential companies in sports history, and the WWE remains a powerhouse that can continue to grow after his retirement.
But stuff happens in life to complicate the narrative. So enduring legacies aren't always scripted like a pro wrestling match. Will Vince McMahon's human flaws overshadow his career success? Or will people remember him as the creative genius and savvy businessman who turned a regional entertainment outfit into a global machine?
Or maybe his retirement announcement is all a big work. And he will keep calling the shots under the table.
Time will tell. It always does.
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