Trump is going to have to say goodbye to his slush-fund Trump Foundation, which prosecutors say gave very little to charity and spent lavishly on bizarre vanity purchases like a $10,000 Tim Tebow helmet and a $20,000 portrait of Trump. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said the foundation engaged in a “shocking pattern of illegality” and said Trump stopped contributing his own money to the foundation in 2006.
So who was giving then? Turns out the biggest donations came from Vince McMahon of the WWE. In 2007, the head of the wrestling empire donated $4 million to the Trump Foundation. WWE is a public company and according to Forbes, the money didn’t come from WWE coffers but directly from Vince and his wife Linda McMahon (who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2010).
The McMahon’s relationship with Trump has been strong from a business standpoint — WrestleMania was held in Trump Plaza Atlantic City in 1988 and 1989 and in 2007 Donald Trump climbed into the ring with Vince McMahon for a proxy fight named “Battle of the Billionaires,” which Trump won, then shaved McMahon’s head in victory and was later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
But things did not go smoothly in the 2016 election when Linda called some of Trump’s comments about women “deplorable.” Somehow they made up and she gave his campaign $7 million and now heads up his Small Business Administration.
So what was the deal with the $4 million donation in 2007? Remember, the foundation’s total fundraising was $4.1 million that year, and it’s unclear what the McMahon’s gained from the big give. And why, in 2009 did the McMahons donate $1 million to the Trump Foundation, but gave no money to their own foundation?
It’s all quite a mystery, but last year Forbes interviewed several former WWE executives attempting to find more info. While Forbes never nails down a definitive answer, Former WWE COO Donna Goldsmith did offer an interesting theory — “perhaps the money served as a payment for Trump’s participation in the ‘Battle of the Billionaires,’ also labeled the ‘Hair Versus Hair’ match. My guess is that it did come directly from Vince,” said Goldsmith.
A WWE spokesman denied the claim, but we do know Trump accepted payment for other appearances via his foundation. In 2011, Comedy Central gave the foundation $400,000, the same year it hosted a “roast” of Trump, and NBC apparently gave $500,000 to the foundation to cover donation promises Trump made on air.
But even those don’t match the seven-figure donations from McMahon, which begs the question — did Vince get his $5 million’s worth? Perhaps so, according to Forbes, at least in terms of promotional value
One thing is certain: Trump’s connection to WWE will remain a part of company lore for years to come. Goldsmith said she received an envelope about a week after the “Battle of the Billionaires” from Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie, who worked at the company. When Goldsmith opened the envelope, she found the hair that Donald Trump had shaved off of Vince McMahon’s head, which his daughter thought the company might be able to somehow use in its merchandise. WWE never did use the hair, and a few years later, Goldsmith left the company, which she called “a little too kooky for me.”
Who wouldn’t want a few locks of Vince’s (amazing) hair? If the company changes its mind and one day goes through with the bizarre merch item, please put us down for the first case!