To this point, Vince McMahon’s return to WWE after a six-month scandal-induced retirement was positioned as a Board of Directors-level move.
He’s never really relinquished control over the company — as controlling shareholder, McMahon’s always had the voting power to dictate WWE business, which is a big part of how he forced his way back onto the Board in January. But we’ve repeatedly heard Vince is only focused on big picture projects like a potential sale of the business and the next round of media rights deals.
Wrestlers, reporters & fans have been looking for signs McMahon is getting more involve with day-to-day operations, especially plotting the creative direction for WWE programming. Yesterday, we got one when WWE CEO Nick Khan told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith:
“Just one note on that, I don’t run the WWE. There’s only one person who actually runs the WWE, Vince McMahon. A lot of folks help me to help run the WWE.“
This morning (Mar. 31), a more official declaration came via a form 8-K WWE filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Under the heading “Departure of Directors or Certain Officers; Election of Directors; Appointment of Certain Officers; Compensatory Arrangements of Certain Officers”, the company announced that as part of Khan becoming WWE’s sole CEO after Stephanie McMahon stepped down in the wake of her father’s return, he signed an amended employment agreement which gives him a nice raise. At the same time, the company entered into “a new employment agreement with Mr. McMahon”.
“The McMahon Employment Agreement” went into effect yesterday. It means he will continue serve a two-year term as Executive Chairman of the Board, retroactive to Jan. 9, 2023. For that, he’ll be paid a $1.2 million annual salary, with an opportunity to earn 175% in a target bonus, and an annual stock grant worth millions. His term will be extended in one year increments if neither he or the company provides 180 days notice of non-renewal. He can receive severance if WWE terminates his position without cause or if he terminates it for “good reason.”
A couple of other items in the agreement could be interpreted as Vince setting himself up for life after a possible sale of WWE.
There’s a “change of control” clause, which entitles him to cash payout of two times his then-current base salary plus continuation of his benefits for two years following such a change.
McMahon has also negotiated control over his life story and personal brand. Vince now officially owns his “personal experiences, biography and life story, and all other rights of publicity and persona relating to McMahon (collectively, the “McMahon Intellectual Property”) in perpetuity.
He’s given WWE “the non-exclusive right” to use that IP, but keeps ”the exclusive right to communicate, convey, commercialize, license, or otherwise exploit his life story, including to create, develop, publish, perform, display, use, license, and otherwise exploit any content and works relating to the same, in any form or medium, whether now known or hereafter created, including without limitation any books (memoir, biography, autobiography, etc.), articles or essays, audio recordings, audiovisual works (documentary, biopic, scripted program, dramatization, fictionalization, etc.).”
The filing also includes the much cooler-sounding “Khan Amendment”, but that’s pretty much just a raise. It’s nothing to scoff at, though. CEO Nick sees his annual base salary increase from $1.35 million to $1.5 million, his max annual bonus go from 160% to 175%, and his annual stock grant increased from $3.575 million to $5.375 million, subject to performance.
Is this setting up major moves in the weeks to come, or just indicative of a return to the pre-sexual misconduct/hush money investigation status quo? Stay tuned.