Linda Marie McMahon (née Edwards; born October 4, 1948) is an American professional wrestling magnate and politician who is currently the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, under the Trump Administration.
McMahon was active with WWE from 1980 to 2009. During this time, the company grew from a small regional business in the North East to a large multinational corporation. As President and later CEO of the company, she initiated the company's civic programs, Get REAL and Smackdown Your Vote. She occasionally made on-screen appearances, most notably in a wrestling "feud" with her husband which climaxed at WrestleMania X-Seven. McMahon and her husband became wealthy through WWE's success, and the McMahon family name is now synonymous with the professional wrestling industry.
In 2009, McMahon left WWE to run as a Republican for a seat in the United States Senate from Connecticut, but lost to Democratic Party nominee Richard Blumenthal in the general election of 2010. She was the Republican nominee for Connecticut's other Senate seat in the 2012 race, but lost to Democratic Representative Chris Murphy.
On December 7, 2016, President Donald Trump announced the official nomination of McMahon to be the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Senate confirmation hearing began as scheduled on January 24, 2017. On February 1, 2017, her nomination was approved by the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on an 18–1 vote.
McMahon was confirmed by the full Senate on February 14, 2017, with a vote of 81–19.
McMahon was born Linda Marie Edwards in New Bern, North Carolina, the daughter of Evelyn and Henry Edwards. She was an only child and grew up as a "tomboy", 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 Baptist family, and was raised a Baptist, though she converted to Roman Catholicism in her later years.
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 New Bern 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's degree 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. 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 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 significant 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; the couple have six grandchildren.
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. In more recent years, she 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."
In a 1989 memo to the company's Vice President, Pat Patterson, McMahon directed Patterson to fire on call physician 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, Dec. 1989 memo.
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.
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 June 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.
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 of 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.
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 (pictured 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.
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 in 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.
She 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.
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. 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%.
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 fundraiser 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, Wyoming that was hosted by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and his son Todd, and featured "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 donated $200,000 to Future 45, a Super PAC which funded anti-Bernie Sanders advertisements.
With her pending nomination to become Administrator of the Small Business Administration, examination of McMahon's record in preparation for her facing United State Senate confirmation began. Among other media attention she received in December was from the Wall Street Journal which noted that, "[a]s part of her 2012 campaign, [the nominee's] economic plan called for getting rid of 'outdated/ineffective and duplicative programs,' and expressed support for a 2012 proposal by President Barack Obama to merge the SBA, the Commerce Department's core functions and four other entities into one unit". The merger proposal, which did not proceed far toward approval at the time, would have eliminated the Cabinet-level post to which McMahon is now nominated. The Connecticut Post of Bridgeport, Connecticut examined issues of potential conflicts of interest from remaining WWE stock holdings and other financial assets as well as of the relationship between WWE and smaller businesses in the wrestling world, with critics and supporters cited. A commentary at the Washington Post looked more generally at how to consider "wrestling as an art form" and credited WWE—despite many deaths of retired athletes at relatively young ages—with a better record on CTE and other athlete health issues than the NFL. The Hill provided a venue for two industry representatives to specify how they hoped McMahon would reform the agency she's been tapped to lead. Huffington Post examined child sexual abuse cases at WWE/WWF in the early 1990s that the nominee took a direct role in addressing. One led to a cash settlement with a disclaimer of guilt. The victim in the settled case said "Over the years I’ve begun to realize how things are done. They wanted to protect their company, but ultimately they did the right thing."
|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|
|Republican||Linda E. McMahon||615,273||43|
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.
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Connecticut
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Connecticut
|Administrator of the Small Business Administration
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