WWE chairman and CEO and XFL founder Vince McMahon claims that former XFL CEO Oliver Luck is "stonewalling" in his wrongful termination suit against the league founder by refusing to answer a sheaf of questions regarding his use of a company iPhone, which McMahon and his lawyers claim prove the former league chief was slacking off on the job.
Luck, a former NCAA and NFL executive, was hired as CEO of the XFL, McMahon’s second attempt at creating a rival to the National Football League, in 2018. The league launched on Feb. 8, 2020 but canceled its season on March 12 of that year because of the pandemic.
The XFL fired Luck on April 9, 2020, a day before the rest of the league's employees were let go, for what they said was cause, claiming Luck’s gross negligence and a willful disregard of the lawful instructions of Mr. McMahon. On April 13, 2020 the XFL filed for bankruptcy protection. Luck sued Alpha Entertainment, the vehicle that officially owned the XFL, and McMahon, who had personally guaranteed his compensation, in federal court in Connecticut on April 16, 2020.
Last August, the XFL was purchased by a group including former wrestler and current movie star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, his ex-wife Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital for about $15 million.
McMahon countersued Luck in January, and in a filing with the court on July 14, claimed that Luck has refused to answer questions related to his use of a company-issued cell phone. That phone is crucial for two reasons: McMahon claims that Luck used the phone for personal use, a violation of company policy, and it also contains text messages and emails that the WWE chief says proves that Luck was not adequately performing his job.
McMahon's attorneys submitted a 50-page affidavit of questions relating to the cell phone use to the court, primarily asking the former CEO to confirm which emails and texts were sent on every day between March 13 and April 9. According to McMahon's attorneys, Luck's responses have been “evasive.”
Luck apparently has refused to voice his "contentions" regarding each email and text, which McMahon's attorneys believe would help the court differentiate between ones he claims reflect his work for the league and those that do not.
In the July 14 filing, McMahon and Alpha attorneys allege that by responding to its requests with "baseless objections and evasive responses," Luck is "stonewalling" its efforts to discover what constitutes XFL-related work he has done and to "narrow the scope of disputed issues related to those contentions."
Luck’s attorneys have said many of the questions are burdensome, oppressive and overly broad, according to court filings. In several cases they objected to questions asking whether Luck had sent emails on certain dates because they don’t include about 95 emails sent to or from him that were excluded by McMahon and Alpha Entertainment on grounds of attorney/client privilege.
McMahon's and Alpha's attorneys say Luck's actions are an attempt to "hide the ball on his position as to the evidence of his XFL and non-XFL work."
The July 14 dispute is just the latest in what has been a series of discovery disputes between the parties. In June, Luck asked to depose the partner in the law firm that headed the investigation that led to his firing. Alpha and McMahon have opposed that motion, which is still pending before the court.
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Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.