Among the many many appalling allegations and experiences of shady enterprise dealings popping out about Jeffrey Epstein, the cash supervisor arrested this weekend on federal intercourse trafficking expenses, one identify retains cropping up: Leslie H. Wexner.
Wexner is the founder, chair, and CEO of L Manufacturers, the Ohio-based conglomerate that owns Victoria’s Secret, Pink, and Tub & Physique Works. He’s value $four.eight billion, in response to Forbes, and for a minimum of a decade he was Epstein’s solely publicly identified consumer. (Wexner himself hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, and in response to a spokesperson, he severed ties with the financier over a decade in the past.)
Even by the requirements of privacy-obsessed billionaires, Epstein’s enterprise practices are shrouded in thriller. (Additionally, he could not truly be a billionaire himself, per Forbes, regardless of the numerous headlines that label him as such.) In a 2002 New York journal story, a distinguished investor urged that lots of his reported claims (using a workers of 300, managing Rockefeller cash) had been pure bluster: “It’s like trying on the Wizard of Oz — there could also be much less there than meets the attention.”
The Wexner hyperlink, although, is nicely documented. SEC filings from the early 1990s by the mid-2000s listing Epstein as one in every of three trustees of The Wexner Basis, in addition to a number of of Wexner’s different prosaically-named charitable organizations, together with Arts Pursuits, Well being and Science Pursuits, Well being and Science Pursuits II, The Wexner Youngsters’s Belief II, and Worldwide Charitable Pursuits. The connection seems to have been principally involved with Wexner’s private enterprise issues, reasonably than his retail empire, however executives at The Restricted had been conscious of Epstein’s affect.
”Everybody was mystified as to what his enchantment was,” Robert Morosky, one of many firm’s former vice chairs, instructed Self-importance Honest in a 2003 profile of Epstein. “He actually got here out of nowhere,” stated one other government.
Epstein additionally obtained his Manhattan residence — a seven-story, 21,000-square-foot mansion that’s been known as one of many metropolis’s largest non-public houses — by Wexner, who bought the property in 1989 for $13.2 million, furnished it lavishly, and but “by no means spent greater than two months there,” in response to a 1996 interview Epstein gave to the New York Instances.
On the time, Epstein instructed the paper that the house was his, although property information present that the deed wasn’t formally transferred till December 2011. Data additionally point out that no cash was exchanged within the transaction, which transferred possession of the property to Maple Inc., a Virgin Islands-based belief managed by Epstein. There have been rumors that Epstein bought the mansion from Wexner for only one greenback.
Now, prosecutors need to seize the Higher East Facet mansion. In response to an indictment unsealed Monday, the house was one in every of a number of websites the place Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor ladies,” and a weekend raid by investigators uncovered “a whole lot — and maybe hundreds — of sexually suggestive images,” together with some that seemed to be of underage ladies.
This isn’t his first encounter with regulation enforcement, both: in 2007, he was indicted in Florida for soliciting intercourse from ladies as younger as 14, although a Miami Herald investigation revealed that he served solely 13 months in a county jail for the crime, a lot of which he spent at a close-by workplace on “work launch.” The final of Wexner’s SEC paperwork through which Epstein is called as a signatory are dated 2005, the identical yr that the Palm Seashore police had been alerted to the financier’s abuse of underage ladies, in response to the Herald. In 2008, Wexner employed former J.P. Morgan government Dennis Hirsch to deal with most of the trusts that had been as soon as in Epstein’s purview.
On Monday, the 66-year-old pleaded not responsible to the brand new federal expenses; if convicted, he might face 45 years in jail.
Wexner, in the meantime, has constructed his empire from his residence in New Albany, Ohio, a tony suburb of Columbus, the place L Manufacturers is headquartered. In the present day, the corporate has greater than 80,000 associates and recorded gross sales of $13.2 billion in 2018, even with Victoria’s Secret’s much-publicized struggles.
In 1963, although, Wexner began the enterprise with a $5,000 mortgage from his aunt, opening a single retailer known as the Restricted, which bucked the division retailer mannequin by carrying solely a comparatively small number of merchandise, specializing in fast-moving items like pants and blouses. A decade in, he operated 41 shops and was shifting $26 million value of clothes per yr; a decade after that, the enterprise had grown a hundredfold, catapulting Wexner into the ranks of America’s billionaires.
By then he had additionally expanded his portfolio of shops, capitalizing on the heyday of procuring malls first with the 1980 launch of Specific, which catered to a barely youthful clientele than the Restricted, after which with the 1982 purchases of Lane Bryant and Victoria’s Secret. Whereas the previous was already a significant chain with greater than 200 shops, the lingerie retailer had solely six places and was on the verge of chapter when Wexner swooped in. Likewise, when the corporate purchased Abercrombie & Fitch for $47 million in 1988, the century-old chain — on the time an outside specialty retailer — had already gone bankrupt as soon as.
Wexner, although, was exceptionally expert at turnarounds. One competitor known as him ‘’the best merchandising expertise in America,” whereas the Instances christened him “a rag-trade revolutionary” and “the Merlin of the mall.” He took the boudoir aesthetic that had been the brainchild of Victoria’s Secret founder Roy Raymond and ran with it, constructing it right into a billion-dollar enterprise by the early ’90s. He overhauled Lane Bryant on the (radical?) concept that, “Huge ladies are identical to each different girl. They learn the identical books, watch the identical TV, and fall in love with Burt Reynolds simply as quick. They need to appear like their smaller mates.”
If he had gotten his approach, he would have purchased out the proprietor of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, however each hostile takeover bids had been unsuccessful.
In 1992, he put in Mike Jeffries as CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, ushering in an period of half-naked co-eds and skyrocketing gross sales, which ultimately gave option to controversies and lawsuits. One swimsuit in 2010 revealed the corporate’s “Plane Requirements” guide, which included a gown code for the 4 male fashions that staffed the company jet, right down to branded boxer briefs. Its infamous campaigns — which tended to characteristic younger, muscular males in varied states of undress — have additionally come underneath fireplace within the #MeToo period, after a number of male fashions accused photographer Bruce Weber of sexual misconduct on set. (Weber has repeatedly denied the allegations.)
L Manufacturers exited Abercrombie shortly after it went public in 1996, however by then, Wexner’s status as a retail energy dealer was already nicely established.
His relationship with Epstein dates again to the late 1980s, in response to the profiles in New York journal and Self-importance Honest. The previous, which refers to Wexner as the cash supervisor’s “patron and mentor,” says Epstein was tasked with getting the funds to ensure that Wexner’s actual property growth tasks in New Albany, in addition to serving because the go-between for varied movie star visits.
Epstein instructed Self-importance Honest reporter Vicky Ward in 2003 that the 2 had been launched by insurance coverage government Robert Meister and his late spouse, although his account of when the assembly came about shifted. As he instructed it, the partnership was one thing of a gathering of the minds: “Individuals have stated it’s like we have now one mind between two of us: every has a facet.”
The pair could not have been aligned politically: Wexner was a significant donor to the Republican Occasion till President Donald Trump’s election, when he started to talk out about Trump’s feedback on immigration and white supremacists. Throughout the 2016 marketing campaign, he in contrast Trump and rival Hillary Clinton to the Roman emperors Nero and Caligula. “On the one hand, you possibly can select someone who’s completely nuts or someone who’s most likely very egocentric and dishonest,” he stated. (In September 2018, Wexner introduced that he was leaving the social gathering to turn into an unbiased.)
Epstein, in the meantime, flew then-President Invoice Clinton on his non-public jet on a number of events within the early 2000s and donated $25,000 to the Clinton Basis by a charity he headed. He was additionally chummy with Trump, who known as Epstein a “terrific man” within the 2002 New York journal profile, saying, “He’s loads of enjoyable to be with. It’s even stated that he likes stunning ladies as a lot as I do, and lots of of them are on the youthful facet.” On Tuesday, although, the president reversed course in an Oval Workplace interview with reporters, saying the 2 had a falling out and hadn’t spoken in 15 years. “I used to be not a fan of his, that I can inform you,” he stated.
Regardless of these variations, Wexner stated their connection hinged on complementary ability units: “I feel we each possess the ability of seeing patterns. However Jeffrey sees patterns in politics and monetary markets, and I see patterns in life-style and vogue tendencies.” Sources instructed Ward that Epstein took on a jack-of-all-trades function working for the retail titan, cleansing up his investments, streamlining budgets, and firing workers members when wanted. He took on messy authorized battles associated to the development of Wexner’s yacht and a $339,900 household portrait painted of Wexner’s spouse and kids.
“Wexner likes having a hatchet man,” one stated. “Each time there may be soiled work to be achieved he’d stick Jeffrey on it. … He has a status for being ruthless however he will get the job achieved.”
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