Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon Biography.com

Business Leader, Television Personality(1945–)
Vince McMahon is the chairman of the World Wrestling Federation, representing the third generation of McMahons in the business.

Synopsis

Vince McMahon’s father founded the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, which dominated wrestling in the Northeastern U.S. during the mid-20th century. In 1982, Vince Jr. bought Capitol from his father and began an expansion that would fundamentally alter the character of professional wrestling in America. The World Wrestling Federation emerged and became a massive operation, going public in 1999.

Early Life

Chairman of the World Wrestling Federation. Born August 24, 1945, in Pinehurst, North Carolina. McMahon represents the third generation of a professional wrestling dynasty: his grandfather, Jess McMahon, worked as a boxing and wrestling promoter, while his father, Vince McMahon, Sr., founded the Capitol Wrestling Corporation. Capitol dominated professional wrestling in the Northeastern United States during the mid-20th century, when the sport was divided into strictly regional enterprises.

As a teenager, Vince, Jr.--who was raised by his mother and met his father for the first time when he was 12 years old--was eager to get into the family business. He graduated from East Carolina University in 1968 with a degree in business administration; his father introduced him into the family business in 1971, making him the head of Capitol's operations in Bangor, Maine. After achieving success in Bangor, McMahon was made responsible for all New England-based operations. In 1982, he bought Capitol Wrestling from his father and began an expansion process that would fundamentally alter the character of professional wrestling in America.

World Wrestling Federation

McMahon recruited new talent and bought out competition across the country, forming a national conglomerate he called the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and a parent company called TitanSports, Inc. Professional wrestling had long hovered in an uncertain position--not considered by many to be a legitimate sport, it was also looked down upon as an unappealingly lowbrow form of entertainment. McMahon admitted that WWF wrestling was technically not a real sport, as the outcome of each match was known in advance. Instead, he played up its entertainment aspect, introducing wrestlers with theatrical personae and flashy costumes and staging elaborate displays for the benefit of the arena crowds and the cable audience. It worked--in 1987, the WWF sold $80 million in tickets to live events, according to Forbes magazine. The federation was also drawing record numbers of viewers to events on pay-per-view, closed circuit television.

In the early 1990s, McMahon and the WWF had a series of legal problems, culminating in the 1993 accusation by the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, New York, that McMahon and Titan Sports had supplied wrestlers with anabolic steroids from 1985 to 1991. During a trial, several former WWF wrestlers, included ex-federation star Hulk Hogan, admitted to using steroids during their careers and testified that the WWF had encouraged the abuse of these drugs, which had been declared illegal in 1988. McMahon was acquitted of most of the charges, although he was found guilty of conspiring to defraud the Food and Drug Administration.

A problem of another kind had arisen in 1988 with the launch of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) by media titan Ted Turner. In the years after McMahon's trial, the rivalry between the WWF and WCW grew stronger, though the WWF remained solidly on top. The competition has only intensified popular enthusiasm for professional wrestling in the late 1990s. WWF events consistently rank as some of the highest among cable and pay-per-view programs, and the company's revenue increased over 45% from 1996 to 1999.

Continued Controversy

Aside from the battle between the WWF and WCW, this rise in popularity has been attributed to a change in attitude of the popular wrestlers today--while they were once portrayed as patriotic and relatively wholesome (like Hulk Hogan), today's top stars are far more aggressive and rebellious (examples include "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Mick "Mankind" Foley). McMahon has done much to encourage this change, flamboyantly playing the evil corporate foil to the wrestlers' bad-boy heroes. He has been accused of bringing the outrageous nature of professional wrestling to an extreme and possibly dangerous level, especially after the accidental death of the WWF's Owen Hart during a pre-match publicity stunt in May 1999. His controversial decision to continue the pay-per-view event at Kansas City's Kemper Arena after Hart's fatal fall earned McMahon few friends, and prompted a pending lawsuit by the late wrestler's family.

In October 1999, McMahon saw World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc., through its initial public offering on the Nasdaq. The company's stock price closed at nearly double its opening price for 10 million shares. As chairman, McMahon controls 98 percent of the voting shares in the WWF. His wife, Linda, serves as the WWF's president and chief executive; both his children, Stephanie and Shane, also work in the company, which is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut.

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