World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., coping with a raft of lawsuits over its business pursuits, has hired its third top lawyer since late 2020 in Elisebeth Collins.
Collins, who will take over immediately as WWE’s general counsel, most recently was deputy general counsel for sales and services at Caterpillar Inc. She joined the manufacturer in 2018 and previously served as its chief compliance officer and deputy general counsel for enterprise risk.
Prior to Caterpillar, Collins spent almost two years at the Boeing Co. as lead counsel for the aviation giant’s autonomous systems division.
WWE, whose chairman and chief executive officer is professional wrestling mogul Vince McMahon, is no stranger to turnover in its top legal role. Samira Shah, who Collins is succeeding, is leaving after being hired less than a year ago.
Shah didn’t respond to a request for comment about her departure. McMahon thanked her for her service and wished Shah well in her “future pursuits.”
WWE said that Collins—who previously worked in private practice at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and Chicago-based Freeborn & Peters—will oversee the company’s legal affairs and serve as its top lawyer and corporate secretary.
“Elisebeth’s experience providing counsel on a wide variety of legal and business matters will help us execute our company’s ambitious plans to continue to grow global revenue and drive shareholder value,” McMahon said in a statement.
Collins, who also spent a half-dozen years as a Republican member on the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, will have a portfolio that will include litigation, intellectual property, corporate governance, government relations, risk management, and talent contracts and compliance, WWE said.
“I am thrilled to be joining this iconic company at such an exciting time,” Collins said in a statement.
Legal Chief Changes
Shah joined WWE last summer after serving as general counsel for online luxury fashion retailer Moda Operandi Inc. She replaced former general counsel Brian Nurse, who left in November 2020 as WWE grappled with the coronavirus pandemic.
WWE hired Nurse in 2018 to take over from former general counsel Blake Bilstad, who spent three years in the role and is now the top lawyer at Beachbody Co. Inc., a multi-level marketing and fitness media company.
Nurse was named the new legal chief for amusement park operator Cedar Fair LP this past November. That same month, WWE parted ways with Darren Traub, the company’s former senior vice president of business and legal affairs for entertainment and talent management.
Traub, a one-time partner at Akerman and Davis Wright Tremaine, joined WWE in January 2021. He’s now a Los Angeles-based general counsel for Triller Inc., a social video rival to TikTok that’s preparing to go public at a $5 billion valuation. Traub didn’t respond to a request for comment about his departure from WWE.
WWE spokesman Chris Legentil said the Stamford, Conn.-based company had no other in-house legal changes to disclose.
WWE, like other providers of live entertainment, struggled during the pandemic as it was forced to furlough and lay off workers with events on hiatus. The company has reportedly continued to shed wrestling talent in recent months.
Within the past two years WWE has also faced litigation over the collapse of a business deal in Saudi Arabia.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Day Pitney, and K&L Gates—the latter a longtime legal adviser to McMahon—are representing WWE in derivative litigation tied to a scuttled Saudi broadcast agreement. A settlement in that matter was tentatively agreed upon last year. WWE previously clinched a separate $39 million settlement related to its Saudi endeavors.
McMahon, WWE’s controlling shareholder, also put into bankruptcy the XFL, a spring football league he rebooted and ultimately sold for $15 million in August 2020 to a group led by actor and entrepreneur Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The XFL, which employed lawyers in key positions, saw its former general counsel Mali Friedman earlier this year become chief legal officer and senior vice president of business affairs for the National Football League’s Washington Commanders.
Oliver Luck, a former Big Law associate who served as commissioner of the XFL, remains embroiled in a $23.8 million wrongful termination lawsuit with McMahon. WWE previously faced down litigation from a shareholder seeking records about the company’s financial relationship with the XFL.