Vince McMahon stages WWE comeback

Vince McMahon attends a press conference to announce that WWE Wrestlemania 29 will be held at MetLife Stadium in 2013 at MetLife Stadium on February 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Michael N. Todaro | Getty Images

Vince McMahon is staging a comeback at World Wrestling Entertainment, months after he retired from the company over a sexual misconduct scandal.

Shares of the company jumped 10% after hours following McMahon’s Thursday announcement.

McMahon, the company’s controlling shareholder, said he had elected himself executive chairman of the company, and he brought on two former WWE co-presidents and board members, Michelle Wilson and George Barrios.

The board initially pushed back on McMahon’s attempted return, along with Wilson and Barrios, which would force three current board directors out of their positions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

McMahon said that his return is necessary as the company gears up for negotiations over media rights and strategic alternatives. WWE, which styles itself as a media company, has been mentioned as a potential acquisition target.

“The only way for WWE to fully capitalize on this opportunity is for me to return as Executive Chairman and support the management team in the negotiations for our media rights and to combine that with a review of strategic alternatives,” McMahon said in his announcement. “My return will allow WWE, as well as any transaction counterparties, to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder.”

A WWE spokesman didn’t immediately comment on the matter to CNBC.

McMahon retired last year amid an investigation into payments the former CEO made regarding alleged instances of sexual misconduct. A special committee probe found that McMahon had paid nearly $15 million to four women over the course of 16 years in order to silence sexual misconduct allegations.

Yet, because McMahon is the company’s largest shareholder, he maintained a lot of power. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, and former company president Nick Khan became co-CEOs after he retired. Vince McMahon had also turned over creative control to his son-in-law, Paul Levesque, a former wrestler who was known as Triple H.

“Mr. McMahon can effectively exercise control over our affairs,” the company said in a November regulatory filing.

–CNBC’s Lillian Rizzo contributed to this report.


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