In the WWE board’s investigation of $19.6 million of unrecorded company expenses, it was revealed $5 million of contributions were made to Donald Trump’s charity in 2007 and 2009.
McMahon resigned from WWE on July 22 amid allegations he paid millions of dollars in hush money to multiple women to keep quiet about affairs and other misconduct. In security filings, WWE said the $19.6 million that came out of McMahon’s pocket should have been disclosed because the transactions benefited the company he was chairman of.
The majority of the payments stem from non-disclosure agreements signed by the women who have accused McMahon and former executive John Laurinaitis. But a $5 million payment was said to be unrelated to the NDAs.
The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo reported Wednesday “people familiar with the board investigation said the $5 million represented charitable donations to the now-dissolved Donald J. Trump Foundation in the same two years that the then-real-estate developer made appearances at WWE televised events.”
Wrestlenomics’ Brandon Thurston did a breakdown of IRS filings on Aug. 11, which can be read here.
Palazzolo added about the payments: “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.”
Trump appeared at WrestleMania 23 in 2007 as part of the “Battle of the Billionaires” storyline where the former United States President and McMahon chose a representative and the loser would have their head shaved. In 2009, Trump appeared on Raw where he “bought” the brand in storyline and later sold it back to McMahon.
“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,” Palazzolo wrote. “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. After the event, Mr. Trump boasted that his appearance had been such a success that Mr. McMahon agreed to give him an additional $1 million, this person said.”
WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt did not dispute the contributions made for Trump’s appearances but challenged the reasoning for the $1 million bonus.
“Mr. Trump and WWE entered into a contract whereby WWE agreed to and did pay him personally an appearance fee of $1 million,” McDevitt told Palazzolo in an email. “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.”
Palazzolo said McDevitt added: “Mr. Trump received a $100,000 fee for his appearance on “WWE Raw” in 2009, while “at the same time” Mr. McMahon and his wife made a $1 million donation to Mr. Trump’s foundation that year.”
Trump agreed to dissolve the foundation in a settlement with the New York state attorney general?s office, which alleged in a 2018 lawsuit Trump misused the charity funds to further his 2016 presidential campaign, pay legal settlements and promote his business. The former U.S. President admitted to misusing nonprofit funds and was ordered by a New York judge to pay $2 million to charities as part of the 2019 settlement.
After Vince McMahon’s resignation, Nick Khan and Stephanie McMahon were named co-CEOs, and McMahon was named chairwoman of the board. Her husband, Paul “Triple H” Levesque took over as head of creative at WWE.
Vince McMahon remains majority owner of WWE and holds 80% of voting power.