Vince McMahon set for multimillion-dollar payout and life story rights in WWE sale
McMahon’s severance package includes life story rights
WWE executive chairman Vince McMahon is in line for a multimillion-dollar payout on top of his $2.6 billion stake — and the rights to his life story — in the event that his company gets sold. When a public company gets sold and a senior executive gets shown the door after the sale, it’s common for them to receive a generous severance package (sometimes called a “golden parachute”).
Severance package worth at least $11m
According to the employment agreement, McMahon would receive a $6.8 million lump cash payment in the event of a sale, plus a pro-rata payout of his incentive bonus for the year (potentially another $2.1 million). He will also see all unvested shares vest, likely delivering a $4.3 million payout if a deal closed this year. In other words, McMahon would receive at least $11 million in the event of a sale, with additional compensation likely depending on timing and share price.
Equity worth $2.6bn
Of course, Vince McMahon is also the majority shareholder of the company, so his severance package is pocket change compared to what his equity would be worth in a sale. According to the WWE’s latest proxy filing, McMahon would receive a payout in the ballpark of $2.6 billion if the WWE sold at its current $90.60 share price (as of writing).
But it is the section about the “McMahon Intellectual Property and Life Story” that is unusual for an employment agreement like this one. McMahon has run the WWE for decades and has long appeared in the ring as a performer (his stage name is “Mr. McMahon”), and the agreement guarantees him (and his successors) the right to his own IP, while he gives the company the right to use his IP on a nonexclusive basis. His previous employment agreement granted the company rights to commercial works based on his life.
Wide leeway to tell his story
“The Company further acknowledges and agrees that McMahon will have the exclusive right to communicate, convey, commercialize, license, or otherwise exploit his life story … including without limitation any books (memoir, biography, autobiography, etc.), articles or essays, audio recordings, audiovisual works (documentary, biopic, scripted program, dramatization, fictionalization, etc.) (the ‘Life Story Rights’),” per the contract. In addition, the company waives any claims “relating to confidentiality, non-disparagement, non-competition, or other restrictive covenant or affirmative undertaking binding on McMahon that results from any content, communication, or action in connection with any exercise of the Life Story Rights and any embodiments thereof.” In other words, McMahon would have wide leeway to tell his story without fear of a lawsuit from the WWE.
Rights to appearances, performances and creative work
The contract gives the company the rights in perpetuity to “McMahon’s writing, appearances, performances, and creative director work product, the Events, and the Footage … (including without limitation all storylines, incidents, dialogue, characters, actions, routines, ideas, gags, costumes or parts of costumes, accessories, crowns, Inventions (as defined below), championship, title or other belts (if applicable), and any other tangible or intangible materials written, composed, submitted, added, improvised, or created by or for McMahon in connection with his appearance at the Events and/or in the Footage),” during his tenure as executive chairman.