Linda McMahon, who married into one of wrestling’s founding families and helped build the WWE into the largest professional wrestling company in the world, was confirmed Tuesday as the head of the Small Business Administration.
The Senate voted 81-19 in her favor.
McMahon campaigned twice for Senate in Connecticut, losing to Sen. Richard Blumenthal in 2010 and Sen. Chris Murphy in 2012. Before entering politics, McMahon served as co-CEO of WWE (formerly known as World Wrestling Entertainment).
McMahon is taking the reins of an agency whose flagship program, 7(a), has experienced two consecutive record years and appears poised to continue the string in the 2017 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Through Jan. 27, the SBA guaranteed $7.6 billion of 7(a) loans, up 13% from the same period in fiscal 2016.
The SBA’s other major lending program, 504, guaranteed loans totaling $1.57 billion through Jan. 27, up 10% from fiscal 2016.
Banks dominate the ranks of the top 7(a) lenders, and American Bankers Association President and CEO Rob Nichols was among the first to congratulate McMahon. “Small businesses are essential for communities to thrive, and we’re eager to build upon the growth-oriented cooperation between SBA and the banking industry,” Nichols said Tuesday in press release.
President Trump, who nominated McMahon on Dec. 7, moved more quickly to name an SBA administrator than many past presidents, according to Richard Bradshaw, president for specialized lending at the $10.7 billion-asset United Community Banks in Blairsville, Ga.
“It looks like he’s going to keep her at the Cabinet level, which I think is huge,” Bradshaw said in an interview Tuesday.
Tony Wilkinson, the president and CEO of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, said McMahon “clearly understands the issues facing small businesses and we look forward to working with her. If the president’s agenda calls for creating 25 million new jobs, access to small-business capital has to be part of that equation.”
McMahon’s predecessor, Maria Contreras-Sweet, helped organize ProAmerica Bank in Los Angeles and was its chairwoman from 2006 until President Obama appointed her in January 2014 to lead the SBA. ProAmerica was acquired by Pacific Commerce Bancorp for $30.2 million in May 2016.
In testimony before the Senate Small Business Committee last month, McMahon cited her experience building WWE from a small, struggling company to a sports entertainment giant.
“I know every bit of the hard work it took to create that success,” McMahon said. “I remember the early days when every month I had to decide whether I should continue to lease a typewriter or if I could finally afford to buy it. Yes, that $12 a month really made a difference in our budget.”
Brett Palmer, the president of the Small Business Investor Alliance, praised her confirmation.
“Mrs. McMahon knows the challenges and opportunities small-business owners face and will be an asset to the administration as it considers the best opportunities to increase economic growth and create more American jobs,” he said. “Small-business investors welcome her and look forward to joining her to ensure small-business owners have the resources and capital they need to grow and thrive.”
House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, said in a statement Tuesday that he had “every confidence” McMahon would work effectively with Congress.
“Our Committee cannot wait to begin working with Linda and her team at SBA,” Chabot said.