Today, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon is a billionaire, but it was once highly unlikely that he would get to where he is today. Growing up poor in North Carolina, McMahon was going down the wrong path in life. After being caught stealing cars, he was shipped off to a military school.
But jail time wasn't McMahon's destiny. He's built the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, as the WWE brings in nearly $1 billion in revenue each year, according to Forbes. But things don't always hum along smoothly for McMahon. One of his businesses filed for bankruptcy in 2020. By 2022 McMahon was being investigated for making a mysterious $3 million payment. This is how Vince McMahon grew his fortune and where he stands today.
McMahon Was Sent To Military School After He Was Caught Stealing Cars
McMahon wasn't always on the right path in life. His rough upbringing caused him to get into plenty of trouble in his youth. After being caught stealing cars, McMahon was sent off to Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Virginia.
McMahon saw it as a chance to start over, saying, "No one really knew me at Fishburne. I had no reputation to uphold." It still took him a while to adjust to staying on the straight and narrow, however. While in military school, he did admit to stealing the commandment's Buick after he saw the keys were left in it and said, "I at least started to change." He was reportedly the first cadet at the school to be court-martialed, but the charges were dropped, and he graduated in 1964.
McMahon Grew Up Living In A Trailer Park
Although he now has an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion, McMahon wasn't always rich. In fact, he grew up poor, living in a trailer park in North Carolina with his mother and stepfather.
Born in 1945, McMahon's father left when he was just a baby, and took Vince's older brother Rod along with him. As he grew up, McMahon abhorred the way his mother's husbands and boyfriends treated her.
His Biological Father Taught Him The Wrestling Business
Vince was 12-years-old when he finally met his biological father, Vincent James McMahon. After meeting him, the younger Vince decided to drop his stepfather's last name, Lupton, for his biological father's, McMahon.
His birth father was a second-generation wrestling promoter working for Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC). Vince's grandfather Roderick James "Jess" McMahon was also in the business. Vince had an immediate attraction to the wrestling business, watching the wrestlers in action at Madison Square Garden with his father.
He Helped Grow The WWE Into The Biggest Wrestling Promotion In The World
Although it was the family business, McMahon didn't begin working in wrestling full-time right away. Instead, McMahon earned his business degree from East Carolina University and began working as a salesman. Realizing that wrestling was still his passion, in 1969 McMahon dropped the sales job and began working as an in-ring announcer for the WWWF.
He worked his way up, proving to have both natural talent as a promoter as well as an extremely hard work ethic. McMahon quickly helped triple the WWWF's TV syndication as a promoter behind incredible matches including Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki in 1976. He also had a knack for growing the brand, which is now the largest wrestling promotion in the world.
He's Suffered Several Business Failures
Vince McMahon has been quoted as saying, "I'm not afraid of failing. I don't like to fail. I hate to fail. But I'm not afraid of it." He's taken plenty of risks in business, including investing and losing millions of dollars in the XFL-- twice, which he has called a "colossal failure." McMahon lost approximately $35 million in the XFL's first launch in 2001, according to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio.
In June 2018, McMahon sold $100 million in WWE stock and invested it into Alpha Entertainment, again toward the XFL. The CEO admitted that he planned on the business losing $375 million in the first three years of the XFL rebuild. The company filed for bankruptcy on April 13, 2020.
Vince's Estimated Net Worth Increased $1.3 Billion In One Year
In 2018, McMahon's net worth was an estimated $1.5 billion and just the following year, that number jumped up to $2.8 billion. That's a whopping $1.3 billion increase. How did he do it?
By the end of 2019, the WWE finalized a deal with Fox Sports to air Smackdown Live for five years across their platforms, a deal that's valued at $5 billion for the WWE brand. The WWE also made a 10-year, $50 million deal with Saudi Arabia sports authority, boosting the WWE's net worth to $5.71 billion in 2019, according to Forbes.
Wrestling Exploded In Popularity Under McMahon's Control
After helping build Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) with his father throughout the '70s, McMahon was ready to become a business owner. Vince and Linda founded Titan Sports in 1979 and took over the CWC in 1982. Together they saw a vision to grow wrestling media to a mainstream audience, engaging the entire family to watch the wrestlers in action, paying for live pay-per-view television.
Unique storylines and exciting top wrestlers skyrocketed the WWF's viewership and attracted 93,173 spectators to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987, making it the biggest crowd in sports-entertainment history. Today the WWE is broadcasted in an estimated 150 countries and 30 languages.
McMahon Overcame Many Obstacles In Life
Early on, McMahon was diagnosed with dyslexia, which made it difficult for him to excel in the classroom. Although McMahon recalls struggling academically, he made it all the way through business school. By the time he was 20-years-old, McMahon was married, and Linda was soon pregnant with their daughter Stephanie.
The young couple didn't have enough money to support their new family and were forced to file for bankruptcy. To get the family back on their feet, Vince stepped into a tough manual labor job at a quarry, working 90 hours a week. Linda also proved to have a talent for marketing and promotion. Together, they pushed through and built a billion-dollar business.
McMahon's XFL Filed For Bankruptcy In 2020
Outside of wrestling, McMahon also owns an American professional football league, the XFL. He founded the organization in 2001 but wasn't able to make it profitable to return for the following season. McMahon reformed the league in 2018, investing $500 million back into the business but is expected to lose a total of $375 million over the first three years.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in early 2020, making matters even worse for McMahon and the league. The XFL was forced to cancel the 2020 football season and filed for bankruptcy shortly after in March 2020.
WWE Shares Dropped More than 40% In 2020
Beginning in December 2019, WWE shares dropped more than 40% as the coronavirus pandemic hit the US. The decline in stock combined with the loss of ticket sales is reportedly causing WWE to lose millions of dollars in 2020.
Bloomberg reported that in March 2020, McMahon struck a deal with Morgan Stanley that allows him to access cash now while in exchange, agreeing to sell WWE shares in four years, in March 2024.
The WWE Made A $50 Million Dollar Deal With Saudi Arabia
The WWE is already broadcasted in 150 countries and 30 languages, and now they've made an even bigger deal with holding international matches in Saudi Arabia. The 10-year pact is expected to bring in $50 million in profit to the WWE each year.
WrestleMania was originally scheduled for Saudi Arabia in February 2020, but after the coronavirus pandemic hit, the WWE was unable to go through with it. Sports Illustrated criticized McMahon for forming a partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is accused of allowing human rights crimes.
Vince Had A Close Bond With His Once-Estranged Father
Although Vince McMahon didn't meet his father until he was 12-years-old, their bond was instant and undeniable. McMahon told Playboy in 2001, "...When I met my dad, I fell in love with him. We got very, very close." He says they never discussed the years they spent apart.
Once they reunited, the elder McMahon took Vince under his wing, bringing him to all of the wrestling events and guiding him through his own career. As the elder McMahon's health declined in the early '80s, the father and his business partners made a deal to sell the WWE to Vince and Linda, who owned Titan Sports at the time. Vince's father passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 69, in May of 1984.
The McMahon Family Lives In Greenwich, Connecticut
Located just 15 minutes away from WWE headquarters, the McMahon family lives in a $40 million dollar estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. The property, known as Conyers Farm, is in a private area outside of the city, in a neighborhood that other wealthy celebrities also call home. Tom Cruise, Ron Howard, Jessica Biel, and Justin Timberlake all reportedly own homes in the area.
The McMahons live in a seven-bedroom, three-story mansion on 10-acres of land. The mansion also has nine bathrooms, a guest room, a pool, and a gym.
McMahon Has A Million-Dollar Car Collection
McMahon has plenty of parking for all of his luxury vehicles at his Greenwich mansion. The YouTube channel "Ten Over Ten" provided a list of the vehicles that the WWE CEO owns. They include a Lamborghini Aventador worth an estimated $400,000 and a Rolls Royce Phantom, valued at $450,000.
He also has a Bentley Continental GT Super Sports, 2007 Mercedes SL 600, Audi R8, a Lincoln Town limousine, and a 1967 Corvette. His vehicle collection is worth an estimated $1.4 million.
The WWF Went Public In 1999
The wrestling entertainment company formerly known as the WWF (now called the WWE) went public on August 3, 1999. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, the WWE opened up $172.5 million of its stock after reporting a revenue of $251.5 million in fiscal 1999.
By this time, the WWF had cemented itself as a big player in sports-entertainment television, and McMahon, now the face of the company, only saw more room to grow from there. On May 5, 2002, the WWF announced that it would be changing its name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Vince & Linda Are A Powerful Force Together
A great deal of Vince's success is owed to his business partnership with his wife. Together, Vince and Linda McMahon built the largest wrestling promotion in the world, as the WWE has an estimated net worth of $5.71 billion. Vince's passion for wrestling and Linda's talent for marketing and promotion created the foundation of the WWE that continues to grow.
In the second quarter of 2018, WWE reported a 31% increase in revenue, the highest in its history, bringing in an annual revenue of $281.6 million.
Linda And Vince Have Been Married For Over 50 Years
Now married for over 50 years, McMahon and his wife Linda first met while they were both in high school, in North Carolina. Vince was 16 years old and Linda was 13 when they met at a local church.
McMahon's mother was the one to introduce them and it must have been love at first sight. After McMahon left for college, attending East Carolina University, Linda soon followed after she graduated high school three years later. They're still together after five decades, marrying in 1966.
His Daughter Stephanie Works In Wrestling
Vince's daughter Stephanie McMahon has also joined the family business, becoming the fourth generation in her family to do so. Stephanie attended Boston University before stepping into her role as WWE's chief brand officer and also appears in front of the camera as part of WWE storylines.
She had a couple of romantic storylines, a short-lived relationship with Test, and her relationship with her now-husband Triple H. The couple was married both on-air as part of a WWE storyline and in real life, in 2003.
Vince Made Stephanie Work Her Way Up In The WWE
Although he was the founder and head of the WWE, McMahon didn't just give his daughter a seat at the table once she was old enough to get a job-- he had her work her way up, just as he had.
Growing up around the WWE ring and offices, Stephanie started out as a model for WWE merchandise before becoming a receptionist for the company. She then stepped in front of the camera as an on-screen personality, dating some of the wrestlers and as a SmackDown General Manager. After an "I Quit" match with her father, Stephanie found her new role in the company as the chief brand officer. She has a net worth of $76 million, as she owns 2.5% of the total shares of WWE.
His Son Shane Is A Professional Wrestler
Vince's son Shane McMahon has also been working for WWE since the young age of 15. Vince's only son worked his way up from the warehouse to a WWE referee and professional wrestler.
Shane retired from the ring in 2009-- today he's a minority owner and producer of the WWE and is CEO of another company. He has three sons with his wife Marissa Mazzola, whom he married in 1996.