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Wall Street Journal confirms $5 million of Vince McMahon’s unrecorded payments were to Donald Trump Foundation

Wrestlemania 23

The Wall Street Journal tonight (Aug. 17) published the latest on the story which led to the Vince McMahon’s resignation from WWE.

It confirms analysis from WrestlenomicsBrandon Thurston that the most recently discovered unrecorded payments by McMahon were made to the now defunct Donald Trump Foundation. Vince’s $4 million and $1 million donations to Trump’s “charity”* were recorded by the Foundation in tax years 2007 and 2009, respectively, as coming from WWE. These were in exchange for the now former President’s appearances at WrestleMania 23 and on Raw in those years.

As has been the case with all of the 20 million dollars in payments the WWE Board’s been investigating, the issue is not the payments themselves (the donations by the McMahons to the Trump organization have been well-known for more than a decade), but that they should have been recorded as company expenditures because they were for something which benefited the company.

From the Journal article:

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.

The $5 million was listed on the foundation tax returns as coming from WWE, but the company said in securities filings this month that the payments came from Mr. McMahon personally.

Perhaps the most delicious aspect of the newest update from WSJ reporters Joe Palazzolo and Ted Mann concerns the 2007 payment, which came after WrestleMania 23’s hair vs. hair Battle of the Billionaire’s saw Trump’s representative wrestler Bobby Lashley defeat McMahon’s Umaga and resulted in Vince having his head shaved:

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.

Their article also notes that Trump publicly boasted the 2009 payment was a bonus from McMahon because the episode of Raw he appeared on was such a success. Vince’s attorney Jerry McDevitt dismissed that claim:

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, Mr. McDevitt said.

Trump’s spokespeople did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

In their filings with the SEC this week, WWE announced their investigation into McMahon’s payments was “substantially complete.”

* A settlement with the New York State Attorney General shut down The Trump Foundation in 2018 after Trump allegedly “misused the charity funds to further his 2016 presidential campaign, pay legal settlements and promote his business.”

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