Linda Marie McMahon (née Edwards; born October 4, 1948) is an American professional wrestling magnate and a former Republican Party candidate. She is notable for her career developing WWE with her husband Vince McMahon. McMahon was active with WWE (WWF until 2002) from 1980 to 2009. During this time, the company grew from a small regional business in New York to a large multinational. McMahon and her husband became wealthy through the WWE's success, and the McMahon family name is now synonymous with the wrestling industry. As President and later CEO of the company, she negotiated business deals, launched wrestling merchandise, signed wrestler contracts, and managed and wrote for WWE publications. She also started the company's civic programs, Get REAL and Smackdown Your Vote. McMahon occasionally made on-screen appearances, most notably in a wrestling feud with her husband which climaxed at WrestleMania X-Seven.
She left WWE in 2009 to run unsuccessfully for a seat in the United States Senate from Connecticut, losing to Democratic Party nominee Richard Blumenthal in the general election of 2010. McMahon was the 2012 Republican nominee for Connecticut's other Senate seat to replace retiring Senator Joe Lieberman in the general election in November 2012, but lost again, this time to Democratic Representative Chris Murphy.
McMahon was born Linda Marie Edwards to Henry and Evelyn Edwards in New Bern, North Carolina. She was an only child and grew up as a "jock", playing basketball and baseball. Her parents were both employees at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, a military base. She grew up in a conservative family, and was raised a Baptist.
Edwards, at the age of 13, met Vince McMahon, then 16. Her mother worked in the same building as McMahon's mother, although they had not met.
Vince's mother became good friends with the Edwards family, and Vince, who had lived with several abusive stepfathers, enjoyed the feeling of stability that he felt at the home. Edwards and McMahon dated throughout their high school years. She attended Havelock High School and Vince attended nearby Fishburne Military School. During this time, Vince was a "permanent fixture" at her home, spending hours with Linda and her family. He attended East Carolina University, studying business administration. Edwards was an Honors student in high school and aspired to become a pediatrician.
Shortly after her high school graduation, Vince asked her to marry him. They married on August 26, 1966, when she was 17. She enrolled at East Carolina University in 1966, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in French and gained certification to teach. From 1968–1971, Vince worked as a traveling cup salesman before joining his father's company, the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). Linda finished college in three years so she could graduate together with Vince. Their son Shane was born in 1970 followed by daughter Stephanie in 1976.
In 1969 the McMahons moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland and Vince began working as an independent promoter with his father’s company, Capitol Wrestling, located in Washington, D.C.. McMahon worked as a receptionist at the corporate law firm of Covington & Burling. She translated French documents and trained as a paralegal in the probate department. McMahon learned a great deal about intellectual property rights, which she found useful in her later career.
Financially, the couple fared poorly for several years, and in 1976, while pregnant with Stephanie, McMahon and her husband filed for bankruptcy. They also briefly received food stamps, until her husband took on a 90-hour-a-week job at a quarry.
By 1979 Vince decided to start his own wrestling company. He purchased the Cape Cod Coliseum in Massachusetts and founded Titan Sports, Inc. in 1980. The McMahons held small hockey and other sporting events in addition to wrestling at the Cape Cod Coliseum. At one point, Linda cooked meatball sandwiches to feed the fans at these sporting events. As the company grew, Linda assisted Vince with administration and used her knowledge of intellectual property law to assist in trademark protection for the company. During much of those early years, she personally had little interest in professional wrestling.
In 1982, Vince McMahon purchased Capitol Wrestling, better known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), from his father. This made Vince the owner of a large regional wrestling company, well-established in the Northeast. He later expanded his market by airing WWF shows on national television.
In 1983 the McMahons moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. McMahon has 6 grandchildren.
World Wrestling Federation / Entertainment
The McMahons founded Titan Sports, Inc. in 1980. Many workers in the company referred to her as the “co-chief executive”. McMahon became President in 1993 and CEO of the company in 1997. The company's explosive growth and the way it transformed the wrestling industry caused some observers to label her and Vince "business geniuses".
One of her major interests in WWF and WWE was product merchandising. She negotiated many of the company’s business deals with outside vendors, establishing the company’s first line of action figures, Wrestling Superstars, in 1984. It was a first in the wrestling industry and helped expand the company’s popularity to children. She also was the primary negotiator for the World Wrestling Federation's 2000 TV deal with Viacom.
During an interview with The Detroit News, when asked what it was like being CEO in a "testosterone-charged industry", McMahon replied, "It's lots of fun. I'm an only child, so I grew up as my father's son and mother's daughter. I was quite a jock. I played baseball, basketball—I think that background made Vince and I very compatible. I really have a very good understanding of the male psyche—I'm very comfortable in a guy environment. I have to say that there are very strong women in this company as well. Our human resources division and our consumer goods division are headed by women—It's still a testosterone business, and I like it."
McMahon's memorandum to Pat Patterson
During the trial, prosecutors revealed a 1989 memo McMahon wrote to the company's Vice President, Pat Patterson. The memo directed Patterson to fire on call physician Dr. George Zahorian and inform him of imminent legal charges charging him with steroid distribution.
Although you and I discussed before about continuing to have Zahorian at our events as the doctor on call, I think that is now not a good idea. Vince agreed, and would like for you to call Zahorian and to tell him not to come to any more of our events and to also clue him in on any action that the Justice Department is thinking of taking.— Linda McMahon, Memo dated Dec. 1989
This memo became known publicly as the "Tip-Off Memo" during her campaign for Senate in 2010. It became a political liability used against her in both the nomination and general election campaigns.
Federal steroids investigation (2007–2009)
Following the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit in 2007, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigated steroid usage in the wrestling industry. The Committee investigated WWE and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), asking for documentation of their companies' drug policies. The McMahons both testified. The documents stated that 75 wrestlers—roughly 40 percent—had tested positive for drug use since 2006, most commonly for steroids.
McMahon was asked why there had been no follow-up during a televised interview with CBS Face the State on January 20, 2010 and responded, "There's not been any follow-up from any of the inquiries that were made because I believe we had furnished thousands of documents and testimony for them, and I think if they looked at our policy and really delved into it, they would be very satisfied."
In August 2008, WWE changed its TV Parental Guidelines rating from TV-14 to TV-PG. In December 2008, at a UBS Media Conference, McMahon described the new rating as a marketing strategy to attract a young generation of wrestling fans. She explained it as a way to create lasting loyalty to the brand. Due to the rating being TV-PG, chair shots to the head were banned, along with sex scenes, blood, and the use of coarse language being banned.
Some older fans, who were long-accustomed to more realistic violence, sexual themes and controversy, felt alienated by WWE's programming change. There has been speculation that McMahon devised the PG rating change in 2008 to improve WWE's public image in preparation for her political campaign.
During the 1980s, the WWF successfully overcame considerable opposition and some media ridicule in lobbying for deregulation in Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. By 2000, fewer than half the 50 states had athletic regulations on the wrestling industry.
As is normal practice for professional sports, WWE classifies its wrestlers as independent contractors rather than employees. The classification spared the company from paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance for wrestlers. McMahon stated the WWE wrestlers had lucrative contracts, merchandising deals, royalty payments and appearance fees previously unheard of in the wrestling industry. She noted that many of the wrestlers had agents, and viewed them like "singers, golfers, or tennis players". The company also offered seminars to help wrestlers pick health insurance plans.
Under McMahon's tenure, WWE became one of the largest recipients of special tax credits for film and TV production granted by the State of Connecticut. During her 2010 campaign, Blumenthal's campaign criticized her and WWE for accepting the tax credits while laying off workers in 2009.
McMahon often referred to the creative side of WWE as Vince's specialty, stating that she was primarily in the management team, although she appeared in several storylines. McMahon debuted on WWF TV during the Corporate Ministry storyline, on the May 3, 1999, episode of Raw. During an interview with Fox News, she said that she often did not know what the storylines were in advance and watched events unfold as the general public did.
The McMahons donated over $8 million in 2008, giving grants to the Fishburne Military School, Sacred Heart University, and East Carolina University. Nonprofit Quarterly noted the majority of the McMahons' donations were towards capital expenditures. In 2006, they paid $2.5 million for construction of a tennis facility in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. As of 2010, she served on the board of the Close Up Foundation, a nonprofit which offers youth field trips to Washington, D.C.
McMahon launched the company's Get R.E.A.L. program to deliver positive messages about education to young adults. The program encouraged literacy through public service announcements, posters, and bookmarks featuring wrestling superstars. In 2000, the American Library Association reported the WWF's Know Your Role poster (at left), was its highest-selling poster for two straight months. Since 2006, thousands of posters featuring WWE superstars were distributed to libraries and reading facilities each year.
SmackDown! Your Vote campaign
McMahon initiated WWE's non-partisan voter registration campaign, "SmackDown! Your Vote", in August 2000. The campaign specifically targeted the 18-to-30 voter demographic, making use of online marketing, public service announcements, and youth voting partnerships. The campaign, which registered 150,000 new voters during the 2000 election, was started in coalition with MTV's Choose or Lose, Project Vote Smart, and Youth Vote 2000. As of the 2008 election, it listed fourteen voter registration partner organizations. During the 2008 Presidential election, Smackdown your Vote! registered many voters online, often in affiliation with Rock the Vote.
The McMahons began supporting the Special Olympics in 1986. McMahon first developed an interest in the Olympics from her friendship with NBC producer Dick Ebersol and Susan Saint James, who encouraged them to participate in the mid-1980s. She met Lowell Weicker, whose son is developmentally-disabled, through the Special Olympics. In 1995, as Connecticut Governor, Weicker appointed Linda McMahon to the Governor's Council for the World Special Olympics.
McMahon became a member of the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, Connecticut) in November 2004. She supported many organizations, including the USO, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, the Starlight Foundation, and Community Mayors. In 2005, she won appointment to The Make-A-Wish Foundation of America National Advisory Council and received the Arthur M. Sackler Award from the Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra for WWE's support of its arts education program.
On January 29, 2007, Multichannel News named McMahon to its class of "Wonder Women" for 2007. The award recognized her outstanding contributions to the cable and telecommunications industries. In May 2007, she appeared as the keynote speaker at the Girl Scout Council of Southwestern Connecticut’s Women of Achievement Leadership Breakfast. McMahon herself had been a Girl Scout.
Under her leadership, WWE was the recipient of the USO of Metropolitan Washington's first ever “Legacy of Hope” award for its extensive support of U.S. troops and the USO's Operation Care Package program. In 2007, the company received the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award for its support of deployed service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008, the company received the GI Film Festival's Corporate Patriot Award.
On April 13, 2012 Sacred Heart University officially dedicated and opened the Linda E. McMahon Commons Building on its main campus in Fairfield, CT.
Connecticut Board of Education
McMahon was appointed to the State Board of Education by Governor Jodi Rell in January 2009. Linda went through a confirmation process in the Connecticut State Assembly, where she was questioned on her record as CEO of WWE. The State Senate approved her nomination by a vote of 34-1 and the House by 96-45, with some opponents expressing concerns that the nature of her WWE activities would send the wrong message. State representative Bruce Morris claimed she lacked "depth of knowledge regarding education". However, state representative John Hetherington said it "would be good to have someone outside the establishment on the board."
On April 1, 2010, McMahon resigned from the State Board of Education, because state law does not allow board members to solicit campaign contributions.
2010 U.S. Senate campaign
On September 16, 2009, McMahon announced her candidacy for U.S. Senator from Connecticut. She announced she would spend up to $50 million of her own money to finance her campaign and refused outside donations, the third most ever spent on a senatorial campaign. She ran for the Republican nomination, campaigning on promises of lower taxes, fiscal conservatism, and job creation. She hired a campaign staff, and delivered speeches that some criticized as too calculated. Her mail, radio, television, and Internet advertisements quickly gained name recognition and strong poll numbers over her opponents.
McMahon's spending became a key argument of one of her rivals, former Congressman Rob Simmons, who accused her of "buying the election". McMahon and Simmons engaged in a frequently bitter contest. At the party convention, McMahon received the most support, but Simmons received enough votes to qualify for the ballot for the August 10 primary, although he was not actively campaigning. In late July—two weeks before the primary—however, Simmons relaunched his campaign by airing ads on TV reminding voters that his name would be on the ballot, participating in debates, and accepting interviews with editorial boards. A third candidate, Peter Schiff, qualified for the ballot by submitting petition signatures. McMahon defeated her opponents and faced Richard Blumenthal in the general election, losing by 11%. The only county that McMahon carried was Litchfield.
2012 U.S. Senate campaign
Immediately after her loss to Blumenthal, McMahon hinted she would run again for Senate in 2012. McMahon maintained a high profile following the election, running television ads, campaigning for politicians, and making frequent media appearances. When Joe Lieberman announced he would retire from the U.S. Senate, she became the Republican Party favorite for the 2012 election.
On September 20, 2011 in Southington, Connecticut, McMahon officially announced her candidacy. On May 18, 2012, McMahon earned the endorsement of the state Republican Party at the Connecticut State Republican Convention by a delegate vote of 658 to 351 over the next-highest candidate, former congressman Chris Shays. The two were the only candidates to qualify for the primary, which took place on August 14, 2012. McMahon defeated Shays by a three-to-one margin, spending $15.7M of her money on the campaign. She faced Democratic Representative Chris Murphy in the general election and lost, marking her second consecutive defeat.
Following her election defeats, McMahon committed herself to becoming a major Republican fundraisers and donor. She donated to groups such as American Crossroads and Ending Spending Fund, and associated with fellow mega donor Paul Singer. As the 2016 Republican nomination process began to gear up in early 2015, McMahon, Singer, and Charles R. Schwab were among donors and prospective-candidate representatives who attended a daylong meeting near Jackson Hole, Wyo., "hosted by the TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and his son Todd, and featuring several Republican donors who favor[ed] same-sex marriage and immigration reform". The McMahons have donated $5 million to Donald Trump's charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She has further donated $200,000 to the anti-Hillary Clinton Super Pac, Future 45.
|Republican||Linda E. McMahon||60,479||49|
|Republican||Linda E. McMahon||498,341||43||+11|
|Independent||Warren B. Mosler||11,275||1||N/A|
|Connecticut for Lieberman||Dr. John Mertens||6,735||<1||N/A|
|Write-in||Write-in candidates (8)||724||0||N/A|
Note: Blumenthal also appeared on the line of the Connecticut Working Families Party and received 30,836 votes on it. His Working Families and Democratic votes have been aggregated together on this table.
|Republican||Linda E. McMahon||83,413||73|
Note: Murphy also appeared on the line of the Connecticut Working Families Party and received 37,553 votes on it. His Working Families and Democratic votes have been aggregated together on this table.