The Wall Street Journal is reporting that WWE's Board of Directors has found that Vince McMahon paid $5 million to Donald Trump's charity. The payments, totaling $5 million, were made in 2007 and 2009. Those are also the years when Trump appeared on WWE programming. In 2007, Trump appeared in the "Battle of the Billionaires" storyline that led to McMahon getting his head shaved at WrestleMania 23. In 2009, Trump appeared in a storyline where he purchased control of Monday Night Raw. Last week, Brandon Thurston from Wrestlenomics.com mentioned the possible connection to Trump. The payments to Trump's charity are among the $19.6 million in unrecorded expenses that were paid out by McMahon.
The WSJ story states that people familiar with the board investigation states that the $5 million was for donations to the now-dissolved Donald J. Trump Foundation. An attorney for WWE told the WSJ that the payments to Trump should have been booked as business expenses because McMahon was the principal shareholder and those payments benefited the company.
The story also noted that a person who reviewed Trump's contract for the WrestleMania 23 match stated that Trump had his associates review the contract to make sure that nothing was stated where he would have to get his head shaved, even if McMahon's wrestler (Umaga) dropped dead in the ring.
“Mr. Trump and WWE entered into a contract whereby WWE agreed to and did pay him personally an appearance fee of $1 million,” Jerry McDevitt told the WSJ via email. “At the same time, the McMahons made a personal contribution to the Trump Foundation of $4 million. There was no additional fee paid to Mr. Trump, or any additional contribution to the Trump Foundation, due to the success of the event.”
Additionally, Trump reportedly received a $100,000 fee for his 2009 Raw appearance and Linda McMahon made the $1 million donation to Trump's foundation, McDevitt said.
The story adds that Trump had been known to direct his appearance fees for other events to his charity. Comedy Central reportedly gave the Trump Foundation $400,000 in 2011, according to his tax returns. Trump appeared on a roast that year.
WSJ also noted the following:
"The $5 million was listed on the foundation tax returns as coming from WWE, but the company said in securities filings this month that the payments came from Mr. McMahon personally.
The $4 million sent by Mr. McMahon to the Trump charity in 2007 represented 98% of all contributions the foundation received that year, while the $1 million in 2009 amounted to 91% of the foundation’s receipts that year."
Trump dissolved the company in a settlement with the NY Attorney General's office. The NYAG alleged in a 2018 lawsuit that Trump misused charity funds for his 2016 presidential campaigns to pay legal settlements and promote his business.