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Linda McMahon spoke with Sports Illustrated about her role in helping build WWE, her life with Vince, newest venture with Women’s Leadership LIVE and more.
On helping build WWE into its massive brand: She worked behind the scenes to create publishing, music, and licensing deals–like action figures–for the company, she explained.
“We built each division at WWE one step at a time, except for the LIVE event. The LIVE event was the business that had been done with professional wrestling until the time we really took over. We expanded to licensing and music rights and publishing–all of those different aspects that came in under the umbrella of WWE – and we just learned it from the ground up.”
“I called Hasbro because Shane played with G.I. Joe. I looked on the back of the packaging and it said Hasbro. So I called and said, ‘Here’s who I am, here’s what I would like to do, but I have not a clue how to do this.’ We were no threat to anybody, and they really didn’t even know who we were. I was talking about doing wrestling action figures, which at the time were called figurines, and they were very happy to give me information about how the licensing process worked–and actually gave me the name of a licensing agent.” “We did the first licensing deal for our articulated action figures, as they were later known. Then all the other licensed products grew from there–that was a whole business. The music publishing business–and, to this day, we have Jim Johnston, who writes a great deal of our music–and we learned the publishing business, because we had to learn about publishing rights. We hired music lawyers, and the contracts were done, and I was the point person. I learned the music business, the publishing business, and I wrote the [WWF] Magazine for a long time under the name ‘Linda Kelly.’ I was the editor, but I wrote a lot of the articles.”
On meeting Vince McMahon and the romance that followed: “No, I’ve yet to meet anyone like him. I was the honors student and the civic leader in my hometown, and Vince was the local badass. There was a little bit of that bad boy aspect that I think was incredibly appealing, and it must have been–we’ll have our fiftieth anniversary this coming August. He’s one of the smartest people I know, and a very shrewd businessman. We shore each other up and we support each other. Someone asked me recently if marriage is 50-50–it averages out to be 50-50, but sometimes it’s 75-25, sometimes it’s 90-10. In the end, it has to average out to be 50-50, that’s how you support each other.”
On Empowering Women with Women’s Leadership LIVE: “We’re giving women the opportunity to network with each other and hear experts in different fields. We want to let women know, ‘This is how these women were successful, and they’re sharing their story with you.’ Our goal is to train women, give them the tools for success–ever how they define success, and that’s what is critical. We want to reach into each of those pockets to give them access to that knowledge and experience. I want Women’s Leadership LIVE to be an incredible success, because I would like to feel that we have given so many women the opportunity to rise to the level that they want and ought to be,” said McMahon. “We want to be a catalyst. We want to finally get to the point that women are exercising power and accomplishing all these things. It’s not, ‘Oh wow, they did that!’ but it’s expected. That is the way it ought to be.”
“It really still is a man’s world, in terms of business. As we started looking at the research, more and more has been made over the past several years about the lack of women’s leadership, or discrepancies in pay with women getting seventy-eight cents on the dollar. Women are fifty-one percent of the population, make eighty percent of the buying decisions within a home, yet so few of them are on public boards. All of this started weighing on me, and I wanted to know how I could help more and give women more support and an active voice.”
On balancing work and home life: “It was hard. You have a lot of guilt that you maybe aren’t spending enough time with your children as you need to. There is almost seven years difference between Shane and Stephanie, so that was different, too. For a while, there was just one child–and organizing someone to watch him and take care of him while I went to work was easier–and then, when Stephanie came along, we had two children–but in both cases, we were very fortunate to find good people who helped take care of them, and people who loved them and they loved.”
On WWE moving to PG: “That wasn’t me, so much, moving to a PG-rating. The development of WWE programming, over time, has mirrored the market place. During the time that WWE was in the ‘Attitude Era,’ which was TV-14–if you looked at television programming and movies that were produced, they were edgier during that same time frame. Then, as that opinion shifted, WWE’s opinion shifted, as well, and sponsors had different demands. It was more of a family-friendlier audience to come back to PG-TV.”
To read the full interview, go here.
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