Not only is WWE infusing new blood into their creative team, they are also shaking up their board of directors. Hot on the heels of the surprise resignation of their well thought of COO Donna Goldsmith comes the less surprising news that 79 year old former U.S. Senator and Governor of Connecticut Lowell Weicker Jr. has decided to step down as a WWE Director at the end of the month. Playing nice with his long time friends Vince and Linda McMahon, Weicker called the move a "mutual decision" and when probed kindly claimed that it had absolutely nothing to do with his failure to endorse Linda in her losing senate campaign last year:
The two things are entirely separate. Being on the board and politics are entirely separate matters.
This would have suited the McMahons down to the ground, as it matched the corporate spin from WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman who attributed the recent board room changes to Vince McMahon's rebranding efforts to turn his perceived wrestling company World Wrestling Entertainment into the entertainment conglomerate WWE:
You may have read we are implementing a new business model, so the company feels that it is a good time to identify new directors to provide a fresh perspective to the company.
Meanwhile, Linda McMahon gave her stock answer to anything that's happened in WWE since she's resigned - don't blame me, I don't work for the company anymore (even though my husband still does and he bankrolled my campaign):
Because I resigned from the board of WWE and as its CEO in 2009, the best source to discuss the relationship between WWE and Lowell Weicker is WWE or Lowell Weicker.
So why does everything seem so fishy? Find out after the jump.
Firstly, it's hard to imagine Weicker would want to leave such a cushy position of his own accord, unless his advanced age is getting to him. Between a retainer fee, a fee for chairing the Compensation Committee, payment for each board meeting he attended and being awarded 2,549 shares of WWE stock, Weicker's very part time position was worth about $150,000 last year. Moreover, he's been a board member for almost 12 years and stuck with the company through thick and thin. During that time WWE has attracted a number of public scandals, most notably the deaths of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, where I'm sure his political influence was put to good use. Indeed, his position on the board, according to Irv Muchnick, was a reward for appointing Linda McMahon to the Governor's Council for the Special Olympics in the mid '90s when the then WWF was still struggling to recover from her husband's steroid trial. So Weicker should have been a WWE lifer, given that he seemed to be a silent board member who was along for the ride, wouldn't rock the boat and let Vince do whatever he wanted to with his business.
Secondly, as Cageside Seats covered in depth last year, WWE's business and Linda's politics have been, and always will be, transparently tied together. WWE wrestlers like William Regal and Kane were wheeled out to the media to extol the virtues of their Wellness policy and their independent contractor status, respectively, after Linda received a ton of criticism for her cold reaction to Lance Cade's death. TNA wrestler Mick Foley made history by being rewarded with a "surreal" book plug on Raw (and probably a future fat contract) for his intellectually dishonest blog posts and media talking points in support of Linda's campaign (despite being a Democrat voter). Vince McMahon even instigated a "Stand Up For WWE" campaign to rally the WWE fan base into defending any and all attacks about his company from Linda's opponents and media sceptics, through televised and website videos of backstage workers, second generation wrestlers and celebrities all gushing about how great his company was to work for.
One person who didn't stand up for WWE sufficiently was Lowell Weicker. Though he could be called upon to gush about the company he was a board member of, he couldn't be called upon to gush about Linda McMahon's political campaign. Indeed, he might have delivered one of the most damaging interviews to Linda's candidacy, by insinuating to Matt Bai of the New York Times that she was trying to buy office and was ignorant about key political issues:
"The Republican Party is a nonentity in Connecticut today," Weicker, who formed his own party when he ran successfully for governor in 1990, told me when I visited him at his home in Old Lyme. "It can’t find men or women that have come through the chairs to get to where they are. They find people with a wad of dough who just try to buy the office." (Dodd, who said he was shocked when McMahon got the Republican nomination, puts it another way: "Her main selling point is money.")
Coincidentally, and a little oddly, Weicker sits on McMahon’s board at W.W.E. After a lengthy discussion of the health care reform law, I asked him if McMahon, who favors repeal, knew what she was talking about. "No," he answered, waving me away as if I had just asked whether either of his large dogs could fly. "I think she’s following the Republican line — to say no."
These biting comments were (and to this day) largely slept on by the wrestling media, but I doubt the McMahons would have forgotten such a public betrayal and have been craving payback ever since.
Finally, why would WWE need to keep such a Benedict Arnold on their payroll for any longer? Now that the McMahons have new political friends within the local and national Republican party, they don't need Weicker's political influence to help them out should another wrestling scandal happen to arise, which is the only thing he brought to the table for them. They certainly didn't hire him for his wrestling or entertainment expertise!