WWE chief quits, eyes U.S. Senate
Maybe the Rock and Triple H will serve as campaign managers.
Linda McMahon, chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., announced Wednesday that she was resigning to run for the U.S. Senate in her home state of Connecticut. McMahon, a Republican, will look to unseat Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd in the 2010 election.
Although not nearly as flamboyant as her husband, WWE Chairman and ringmaster Vince McMahon, Linda McMahon is considered the brains behind the brawn. She has been CEO of WWE since 1997 and before that served as president. WWE has a market cap of $1.03 billion and reported net income of $19.9 million on revenue of $138.8 million for the quarter ended June 30. According to the company’s proxy statement, McMahon took home $508,880 last year.
With deep pockets and a fairly established presence in the state and on Wall Street, McMahon could be a force in the race. She has spent the last few years rubbing elbows with Lowell Weicker, a former Connecticut governor and U.S. senator who is on WWE’s board of directors.
McMahon’s opponents for the Republican nomination include former Rep. Rob Simmons and Tom Foley, a former ambassador to Ireland. Economist Peter Schiff is expected to announce his candidacy today.
McMahon, 60, said in an interview that she would fund her own campaign, would not take contributions from interest groups and would limit personal donations to $100. She said she was tired of career politicians.
“I think we need businesspeople,” she said. “When you’ve grown a small, family-run company into a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange, you know about living on budgets and making payroll.”
Meanwhile, WWE has been expanding. Vince McMahon indicated last month that he wanted to launch a cable network and was pushing to make more movies with the company’s stable of wrestling talent.
Linda McMahon said she had been disengaging from her day-to-day activities for the last year while she contemplated entering the Senate race. Vince McMahon will assume the CEO title, and Chief Operating Officer Donna Goldsmith will also take on additional management duties.
It remains to be seen whether McMahon’s background in the at-times controversial world of wrestling will be a liability in an election. Over the last year, WWE has toned down the more violent and raunchy elements of its programming in an effort to broaden its advertising base and attract younger viewers and families.
McMahon said the shift in tone was in the works “long before my decision to have any kind of political career.”
The last time McMahon appeared on a WWE show was in 2005. “I’m not a very good actress,” she said.
She did once exchange slaps with her daughter Stephanie, who is also a WWE executive, as part of a plot line. “It was awful,” she said.
Of course, being associated with professional wrestling didn’t prevent former wrestler Jesse Ventura from becoming governor of Minnesota in 1999.
As for whether the rough-and-tumble industry is good training for Capitol Hill, McMahon cracked, “The product of the WWE isn’t going to prepare me for D.C. any more than ‘Terminator’ prepared Arnold Schwarzenegger to be governor of California.”