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UPDATE ON WWE DEPARTURES, NICK KHAN AND MORE

By Mike Johnson on 2021-04-23 14:25:00

Updates on the WWE departures we reported on last night:

Brian Flinn, who held the post of Chief Marketing & Communications Officer for WWE and had been with the company for over nine years after coming over from the NBA has departed the company.  He is the latest name confirmed gone after the Communications department was taken over by WWE President Nick Khan hire Chris Legentil, who was named Senior Vice President & Head of Global Communications earlier this week.

As we reported last night, Mead Rust, Vice President, Communications is no longer with the company, ending a two year-plus run that started after he came over from A&E Networks after a 16 year run there.  Joe Villa, Manager Publicity and Corporate Communications, is also gone.  Villa had been with the company over 22 years, initially with the Fan Services department before moving into Live Events Management and publicity.  Villa took to social media to comment on his exit:

On the Talent Relations end, they've had quite the few days.  Earlier this week,  Nicole Zeoli, who was the Director of Talent Relations, departed the company.   Zeoli had been with the company over 11 years and moved into her role as Director in February 2018.  Long-time WWE referee John Cone, who had also worked in the Talent Relations Department as a Senior Manager is no longer working for that side of the company.  We are told Cone remains with WWE as a referee [UPDATE 3:07 PM EST - Cone has been reinstated in his position]

We can also add that Dan Engler aka referee Rudy Charles, is also gone from the Talent Relations department.   He remains as a referee as well.

That would have pretty much meant a clean sweep of the department with just Mark Carrano working under John Laurinaitis, until the Mickie James garbage bag incident hit social media.  All of the other departures mentioned above had nothing to do with the Carrano exit.  Last night, James revealed her belongings were sent to her by WWE inside a boxed trash bag.  That led to other former talents claiming the same had happened to them.   

After the story began trending on Twitter, WWE executives Triple H, John Lauirinaitis and Stephanie McMahon all apologized and announced the person responsible was gone from WWE.  Carrano was named as being let go, initially by WrestlingInc.com.  Whether he was personally responsible or it was someone under his umbrella, he's the one taking the heat for the issue.  Obviously, the timing of that going public the same day as WWE releasing its first quarter earnings for 2021 made that public embarrassment even worse.  We are told that WWE began informing those within the company this morning that Carrano was officially done.  We are also told that the company has reached out with apologies to some former talents.

All of this leaves John Laurinaitis with the ability to build a new Talent Relations team, unless, as one source cautioned, that department ends up transformed into something else as a result of the sweeping internal changes Nick Khan is in the middle of bringing about within the company as he restructures it to get the company in line with his vision. 

We are told by a number of WWE sources that Khan has been given great power and leeway by Vince McMahon to move WWE forward into the future and prepare to bring the company towards a more mainstream entertainment property.  There is a reason Khan is bringing in so many from CAA, his former talent agency.  He's building a roster of trusted staff who can carry out his vision and speak the Hollywood language to help WWE grow revenue, partnerships and pursue business avenues that had never been attempted before as the company WWE was something of an anomaly in the entertainment world. 

We are told that Khan seeks to raise the company well beyond that with the idea of leaning heavily on its intellectual property, seeking to position it as something to similar to Marvel and DC with lots of potential crossover appeal not just for performers but the characters and WWE brand itself.   He wants people who speak the Hollywood language to sell WWE to Hollywood and beyond.  Thus, the influx of CAA alumni, all of whom are well versed in selling clients, only now, the only client they will have to sell is WWE itself.  

We are also told Khan is also seeking to present WWE as far more mainstream, which is why you are seeing recent broadcast hires with a sports background, like Adnan Virk and today's announcement of the hiring of Megan Moran.  It's an attempt to change the energy and presentation on camera as much as Khan is transforming things on a corporate level.  We are told that the current internal restructuring is still ongoing and there could very well be other changes and other staff departures.  This is going to be a process that is ongoing in the days and weeks ahead. 

It's very much Nick Khan's world going forward.   There's a reason the company paid him $12 million last year, more than any McMahon family member made in 2020.  Khan's being entrusted to raise the entire WWE battleship to new heights after helping them score the biggest TV rights deals in company history.

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