Breaking down just how much stock and what portion of WWE voting rights are controlled by whom can be complicated, though.
The confusion is mainly because WWE has two share classes, which is common for many publicly traded companies. Facebook is another company that grants its founder a preferred class of shares that allow the founder-shareholder to possibly sell shares down to a small minority while still maintaining control of the company.
As of today, Vince McMahon holds about one-third of WWE shares, however, he holds the vast majority of voting rights. His class B shares give him 10x voting power over that of class A “common stock”.
Other McMahon family members, Linda and Stephanie, also hold class B stock. Shane McMahon used to hold a large amount of class B shares but appears to have disposed of all his shares by 2014. Only Vince, Linda, and their descendants can hold class B stock. Those privileged shares cannot be sold or transferred to others who are not descendants. When McMahon family members sell stock, those shares are necessarily converted to class A stock.
Despite his marriage to Stephanie, WWE EVP Paul Levesque can only own class A shares, which are awarded to him regularly as part of his compensation.
As a result, voting power actually breaks down as shown in the pie chart below:
Let’s look at who are some of the top WWE stockholders.
Vince McMahon: WWE’s long-time chief executive, current CEO and chairman of the board of directors. He holds about 38% of shares and 81% of voting power.
Lindsell Train Limited: The largest institutional owner of WWE shares, owning about 15% of shares and less than 4% of voting power. The U.K.-based firm is majority-owned by founders Nick Train and Michael Lindsell.
Stephanie McMahon: WWE’s Chief Brand Officer, a member of its board of directors, and Vince’s daughter. She holds about 2.5% of all shares and 5% of voting power. This doesn’t include the shares held by her husband, EVP “Triple H” Paul Levesque. His shares are just a fraction of Stephanie’s.
Linda E. McMahon: The former WWE president and husband of Vince McMahon holds less than 1% of WWE stock, but those are class B shares. So her voting power accounts for about 1.6% of the total.
BlackRock, Inc.: Another massive investment corporation that holds stake in thousands of companies. BlackRock holds about 8% of WWE and less than 2% of voting rights. You can buy stock in BlackRock itself on the New York Stock Exchange.
Vanguard Group: This multinational investment firm is headquartered in Pennsylvania and holds 5.4% of shares and about 1% of voting power. Vanguard holds shares in thousands of companies. Their assets were worth more than $6 trillion in January 2020. Vanguard is the largest provider of mutual funds and the second-largest provider of ETFs, second only to BlackRock.
Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer. For more, see our About page.
Reporters and pundits are repeatedly struck by what they see as Donald Trump’s new presidential tone, suggesting that — after years of inflammatory speech, gross mismanagement, and an inability or unwillingness to distinguish truth from wishes — he might finally begin behaving like a normal president. He never does.
Reporters and pundits are repeatedly struck, too, by what they see as Vince McMahon’s new approach to WWE creative, suggesting that after years of terrible TV shows, a chronic failure to develop stars, and an inability or unwillingness to distinguish his consumers’ taste from what he wishes it was — he will finally get Raw and Smackdown back on track. He never does.
The cabinet members surrounding the president turnover rapidly. They’re introduced with effusive praise before they’re cast off with insults. The naive among us buy the notion that the aides are indeed the problem.
Despite being the wealthiest nation and the supposed leader of the free world, Donald has set the country on a track through which those notions are not sustainable, if they are even still true.
Despite being the wealthiest wrestling company and the supposed industry leader, Vince has set his company on a track through which those notions are not sustainable, if the latter is even still true.
Donald disdains the media that covers him; he calls them “fake news”. Well before Donald did so, Vince disdained the media that covered him; he calls them “the dirt sheets“.
Speaking of which, Donald thinks he’s brilliant when it comes to branding and redefining language in his favor: “fake news”, “Crooked Hillary”, “Sleepy Joe”, “China Virus”. Vince thinks he’s brilliant in this regard as well. He doesn’t have wrestlers; he has “superstars”. He doesn’t have fans; he has “the WWE Universe”. He’s not in the wrestling business; he promotes “sports entertainment”. These terms are generally adopted only by their most sycophantic supporters.
Donald has affection for the Saudi government. Despite a host of ongoing human rights offenses, they’re an extremely lucrative business partner. Vince has affection for the Saudi government. Despite a host of ongoing human rights offenses, they’re an extremely lucrative business partner.
Vince’s reactions to crises like declining TV ratings show how he lacks the discipline for long-term planning. He’s recklessly optimistic in the face of serious challenges. He’s unable to act on anything but quick fixes or distinguish good advice from that which affirms his ego. Whether it’s Raw Underground or the Thunderdome or bringing back legends from the past. Not to mention, Vince was wary to embrace coronavirus testing; for fear testing may tell him bad news.
Both of their cults of personality are apparently capable of turning people who were once lionized — like Lindsey Graham and Rudy Giuliani … or Seth Rollins and Edge — into shameless disciples of power who’ve internalized a familiar victim complex. Those who escape the cult are either deafening in their silence — or, they write books … or record interviews with Chris Jericho, describing the chaotic and dysfunctional scenes of their former workplace.
Vince will control WWE creative for the remainder of his functioning life. Donald jokes (or is it a joke?) about running for an unconstitutional third term as president. Regardless of occasional and thinly veiled messages to the contrary, their behavior only supports the notion that their personal philosophies are one of Darwinian libertarian anarchy and self-aggrandizement. The only thing they value more than money is their power and ability to control their environment. Without objective moral values, they resort to value people only insofar as they are loyal to them personally. As Vince protected Pat Patterson, so did Donald protect Roger Stone.
The fate of the United States is far more serious than that of a company like WWE, obviously, yet the parallels between the chief executives of the two entities are remarkable.
There are noticeable differences, too, though, if only relative to their differences in power. Despite his hubris, Vince seems capable of warmth. He cries talking about the Ultimate Warrior after he died. He gets emotional talking about his dad. He gets emotional when he feels appreciation for his son (even if it requires his son jumping off a cage dozens of feet high). He takes Ric Flair, who in two separate eras was a key talent in a rival company, as an adopted family member. He’s able to reconcile with even his most disgruntled former associates, like Bret Hart, Bruno Sammartino, and the aforementioned Warrior, for reasons that are partly but seem not entirely driven by business. In response to tragedies, whether national ones (like 9/11), or even tragedies he arguably bears responsibility for (like the deaths of his active wrestlers), he seems genuinely affected, but also defensive. And indeed, Vince manages to keep his stream of consciousness away from Twitter, using it most memorably only to wish friends and family a happy birthday.
Certainly, too, Donald must be envious of Vince’s class B shares. Class B shares are even better than the Electoral College. If only the president too personally held the majority of the voting power in the country, as Vince does in his company. Annually, not just every four years, Vince gets to reelect himself Chairman. As long as Vince retains a small portion of his stock, he can’t be removed from office or even told what to do, no matter the opinion of any number of average people.
There’s understandable suspicion that there’s a connection between Linda McMahon’s pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, allocating $18.5 million to Florida on the same day (April 9) that Florida governor Ron DeSantis amended his stay-home order which allows WWE to run tapings at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
As dubious as it seems, and without diminishing how destructive as money in politics is to democracy, I doubt the super PAC spending and the amendment are truly connected — not that politicians, especially Republican politicians in the Trump era have ever earned the benefit of the doubt. The timing is conspicuous, but the allocation of the money for Florida doesn’t seem unusual in timing or amount. And the benefit to DeSantis is more incidental than direct.
The announcement to invest $18.6 million in advertising in Florida, dedicated to the re-election of Donald Trump, was made simultaneously with the announcement of $8 million in spending for North Carolina. The week prior, the super PAC announced it would spend millions in other swing states, Pennsylvania ($5.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.7 million) and Michigan ($2 million). True, among these states the spending for Florida is the highest, but Florida has the most electoral votes among these states. The state has been won by every presidential election victor since 1996, and with the exception of 1992, every election since 1964.
This spending on advertising will benefit Trump’s reelection bid, so it will also likely benefit other Republicans down-ballot in November. DeSantis himself, though, was elected in 2018 and is not up for reelection until 2022.
It’s notable, too, that the amendment to the Florida stay-home does not specifically name WWE or wrestling. While it’s quite possible that WWE lobbied for the amendment, its language seems directed more generally at sports and entertainment activities that are produced without a live audience.
The low information reading of this situation is that Linda McMahon gave Ron DeSantis millions of dollars, and DeSantis subsequently granted WWE specific permission to continue tapings. That’s not what happened.
In case it’s not clear, this is not a defense of insidious and plutocratic organizations like America First Action, nor of WWE’s choice to unnecessarily risk the health of its workers and the public by continuing with tapings. Instead, upon a more informed look at the situation, it’s apparent that the investment in pro-Trump advertising in Florida and the allowance of WWE’s Orlando tapings are likely not as related as they may seem on a more superficial assessment.
But if people of wealth and power are doing bad things, why make any subtle distinctions? Our reflexive willingness to allow low information to affirm a view that all political actions are corrupt only blunts our ability to distinguish just politics from the unjust. Indeed, did you not just read “just politics” as an oxymoron? That reflex prevents us from undoing genuine corruption. The ease at which we jump to undue conclusions deepens our distrust and polarizations, and reinforces our helpless complex that laughs at the notion that any political action is worthwhile. The brilliance of corrupt power in our time is that it benefits from the cool self-defeat of the cynical people it exploits.
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