The Former Victoria’s Secret CEO Regrets His Connection To Jeffrey Epstein

“My trust in him was grossly misplaced.”

Originally Published: 
Victoria's Secret CEO Les Wexner in 'Victoria's Secret: Angels and Demons' via Hulu's press site
Courtesy of Hulu

Anyone who’s visited a mall in the past several decades has probably been in one of former L Brands CEO Leslie “Les” Wexner’s stores. Known as the “Merlin of the Mall,” Wexner, at one time, owned Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, and Bath & Body Works. The Ohio billionaire's eventual downfall — largely precipitated by his connection to Jeffrey Epstein — was swift, however. In Hulu’s three-part docuseries, Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons (premiering July 14), director Matt Tyrnauer reveals how the “underworld of fashion,” billionaire class, and Epstein himself are all “inextricably intertwined with the fall of this legendary brand.”

Wexner met Epstein sometime around 1986, according to Vanity Fair, thanks to an introduction from close friend and insurance executive Robert Meister. Soon afterward, Wexner hired Epstein to be his personal money manager, reportedly granting him full access to his finances and personal information. Citing court documents and sources close to the situation, The New York Times reported that Wexner even gave Epstein carte blanche to borrow money on his behalf, sign his tax returns, and make new hires and business acquisitions. Living in a house on Wexner’s Xanadu property in Ohio at one point, Epstein also replaced Wexner’s mother on the board of his foundation.

As reinvestigated in Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons, Epstein — whose notorious Lolita Express Boeing 727 was once owned by L Brands (formerly The Limited) — tried to pass himself off as model recruiter for the lingerie brand in the mid-’90s. When L Brand employees informed Wexner that Epstein was, against company policy, attempting to recruit lingerie models for the Victoria’s Secret catalog, he promised to take care of the issue, two executives told the NYT on the condition of anonymity. But, in 1997, a woman named Alicia Arden filed a police report, which the newspaper reviewed, alleging that Epstein had lured her to a Santa Monica hotel room under those same false pretenses.

Wexner, for his part, gave the Hulu filmmakers the following statement, via a representative: “The issue of Epstein claiming an association with Victoria’s Secret was raised on one occasion with Mr. Wexner. He confronted Epstein and was clear that it was a violation of company policy for him to suggest that he was associated in any way with Victoria’s Secret and that Epstein was forbidden from ever doing so again. Epstein denied having done so.”

Regardless, Wexner told Vanity Fair in 2003 that Epstein was “a most loyal friend” who is “very smart with a combination of excellent judgment and unusually high standards.” Then, Florida authorities charged Epstein with multiple counts of molestation and unlawful sexual activity with a minor in 2006. Eighteen months later, Wexner cut ties with Epstein, though he didn’t reveal as much until 2019. Days before Epstein passed away in prison awaiting trial for crimes in August 2019, Wexner reportedly claimed in a letter to his foundation that his former financial advisor had deceptively “misappropriated vast sums of money” from him and his family, including a reported $47 million transfer to a Wexner-controlled charity fund in 2008.

“I am embarrassed that, like so many others, I was deceived by Mr. Epstein,” Wexler reportedly wrote. “I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced, and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path.”

Following Epstein’s passing, L Brands conducted an investigation into Wexner’s relationship with Epstein. Though the findings were never made public, Wexner resigned as CEO in 2020 after founding the company nearly six decades earlier. He still remained chairman emeritus of the board, but stepped away from the role in May 2021. Months later, Bloomberg reported that he’d almost completely severed his ties with the company after selling about $2.2 billion in shares. That left Wexner, whose net worth is about $10 billion, with less than a 2% stake in his former company.

Though the 84 year old has largely remained out of the spotlight in recent years, he’s still acquiring real estate, including a rural estate in Warwickshire, England, in addition to designing and building his own town, New Albany, near Columbus, Ohio. In February 2021, The Real Deal reported that the Wexner family was also buying golfer Greg Norman’s $60 million South Florida compound.

No matter where he goes though, Wexner will be tied to financing Epstein’s crimes, whether he was “deceived” by him or not.

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