Les Wexner

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Les Wexner
Wexner in 2004
Leslie Herbert Wexner

(1937-09-08) September 8, 1937 (age 86)
Other namesLes Wexner
EducationOhio State University (BBA)
Known forChairman
Political partyRepublican (before 2018)[1]
Independent (since 2018)[2]
Abigail S. Koppel
(m. 1993)

Leslie Herbert Wexner[3] (born September 8, 1937) is an American billionaire businessman, the co-founder and chairman emeritus of Bath & Body Works, Inc. (formerly Limited Brands).[4]

Wexner retained Jeffrey Epstein as his financial manager from 1987 to 2007 and was initially the "main client" of Epstein’s money-management firm, according to Bloomberg. Epstein ran his business out of a house Wexner owned and sometimes resided in while Advisor of Victoria's Secret.[5][6]

Early life and education[edit]

Leslie Wexner was born in Dayton, Ohio,[7] on September 8, 1937, to parents Bella née Cabakoff (1908–2001) and Harry Louis Wexner (1899–1975).[8] Both his parents were of Russian-Jewish origin.[4] His father was born in Russia and his mother was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.[4] She moved to Columbus, Ohio as a toddler.[8] Wexner has a younger sister, Susan.[9]

Wexner attended Bexley High School and Ohio State University.[9] He initially expressed an interest in architecture[10] but graduated in 1959[11] with a major in business administration.[7] While a student at Ohio State University, he joined the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. Wexner served in the Air National Guard.[4] He briefly attended the Moritz College of Law.[9]


Wexner began his retail career working in his parents' clothing store, "Leslie's", which had been named after him.[10] According to Wexner, he began working at his parents' store so they could take a vacation.[10] Wexner analyzed the sales and inventory, identifying the most and least profitable items. When his father refused to adjust the inventory, Wexner decided to open his own store.[12]

In 1963, Wexner's aunt lent him $5,000 which he combined with a matching loan from a bank in order to start The Limited.[9][10] The store took its name from its focus on moderately priced merchandise, such as skirts, sweaters and shirts, that sold quickly and quickly generated revenue.[12] Wexner opened the first store on August 10, 1963, in the Kingsdale Shopping Center in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. One year later, Wexner's parents closed their store and joined their son in running The Limited.[8] He opened the second Limited store in August 1964.[10] He took Limited Brands public in 1969, listed as LTD on the NYSE.[10]

A. Alfred Taubman served as a mentor for Wexner, starting in the mid 1960s, and the two partnered on many deals involving Taubman's shopping malls.[9]

Wexner expanded The Limited considerably in the 1970s, having opened the 100th store in 1976.[9] He took on significant debt in 1978 to purchase the importer and manufacturer Mast Industries, which provided him with essential business advantages over competitors.[9]

In the 1980s, Wexner doubled his retail holdings by purchasing other companies and became known as a major retail owner at malls in America. Most notably, he acquired the lingerie business Victoria's Secret in 1982. Started as an MBA project by Stanford graduate Roy Raymond, Victoria's Secret attracted Wexner's interest due to the unique, high quality merchandise and Victorian-era decor of the shop which featured red-velvet sofas. Wexner described Raymond as "very guarded", stating, "When I met him, it was as if he met the devil."[10] Six months later, when Raymond was facing bankruptcy, he contacted Wexner and offered to sell Victoria's Secret.[10] Wexner bought the company for $1 million, and by 1992 it was worth an estimated $1 billion.[13] After Wexner assumed ownership, Victoria's Secret became widely known for marketing its items with the use of super models featured in an annual fashion show, overseen by Ed Razek.[13] By 2015, sales were in decline and 2018 was the final year for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.[13]

In 1993, Wexner hired Len Schlesinger, a Harvard Business School professor, whom he later appointed as a company director, to advise him.[14][15]

Over the years, Wexner built L Brands, a retailing and marketing conglomerate that included Victoria's Secret, Pink (Victoria's Secret for teens), Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel, The White Barn Candle Company, and La Senza. Previous brands that were spun off include Lane Bryant, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lerner New York, The Limited Too (now Tween Brands, Inc.), Structure 9, Aura Science, The Limited (which closed its brick-and-mortar stores while retaining its online presence), and Express (which closed its Canadian stores and hundreds of its U.S.-based stores).

In 2012, CNN Money described Wexner as the longest serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company.[16] He was on Harvard Business Review’s Top 100 Best Performing CEOs in the World, ranked number 11 in 2015,[17] and number 34 in 2016.[18] In February 2020, Wexner announced that he was transitioning from CEO of L Brands into the role of chairman emeritus.[4]

Jeffrey Epstein association[edit]

Wexner hired Jeffrey Epstein as his financial manager from 1987 to 2007.[19][20] He was the primary client of Epstein, who claimed to only work with clients with a net worth of one billion USD or greater. Wexner purchased his New York property, the Herbert N. Straus House, in 1989 and sold it to Epstein in the mid-1990s following Wexner's marriage to Abigail.[19] In July 1991, Wexner granted Epstein power of attorney[21] and also instated him as a trustee on the board of the Wexner Foundation.[22]

The Herbert N. Straus House on the Upper East Side

Wexner has been accused of failing to take action when complaints were raised against Epstein, after executives of L Brands reported (in the mid-1990s) that Epstein was abusing his power and connection to Wexner by posing as a recruiter for Victoria's Secret models.[21] Maria Farmer contacted local and federal authorities about an assault she allegedly endured by Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell while working as an artist-in-residence on Wexner's Ohio property in 1996. Within a year of Farmer's complaint, actress Alicia Arden filed a police report in Los Angeles detailing that Epstein had misrepresented himself as a recruiter for Victoria's Secret prior to another alleged assault.[21]

In early 2006, Epstein was charged in Florida with "multiple counts of molestation and unlawful sexual activity with a minor."[21] The New York Times reported that 18 months after the charges were filed, Wexner cut his ties with Epstein.[21]

In August 2019, following Epstein's second incarceration and prior to his death, Wexner addressed the Wexner Foundation, releasing a written statement that his former financial advisor, Jeffrey Epstein, had “misappropriated vast sums of money” from him and from his family.[23] Wexner retained the services of Debevoise & Plimpton criminal defense attorney and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Mary Jo White.[24]

Wexner faced additional public scrutiny in late 2019 and early 2020, when a group of wrestlers who are survivors of the Ohio State University abuse scandal publicly called on state and federal officials to conduct further inquiry into Maria Farmer's allegations of sexual assault at the Wexner property.[25][26] The wrestlers called for accountability for the Wexner family's alleged involvement in Epstein's abuse and raised the issue of the continuing influence of Abigail and Leslie Wexner serving as the "biggest and best-known benefactors" of the university.[26]

L Brands shareholders filed a complaint in the Court of Chancery of Delaware on January 14, 2021, stating that Wexner, among others, created an "entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment", and was aware of abuses being committed by Jeffrey Epstein, which breached Wexner's fiduciary duty to the company and devalued the brand. The complaint also names Wexner's wife, current chair Sarah E. Nash, and former marketing officer Ed Razek, whose "widely known misconduct" was allegedly allowed at the company.[27]

In the media[edit]

In 2022, Wexner was mentioned in the pop song "Victoria's Secret",[28] for profiting off women and contributing to their toxic body ideals.[29][30] When Jax sings that "I know Victoria’s secret, and girl, you wouldn’t believe. She’s an old man who lives in Ohio making money off of girls like me.” she refers to Wexner.

Wexner's relationship with Epstein was one of the subjects of the 2022 Hulu documentary Victoria's Secret: Angels and Demons.[31]


In 1989, Wexner and his mother Bella were the first to make a $1 million personal donation to the United Way. Both of their names were inscribed in marble and are on display in the lobby of the United Way Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.[32]

Wexner was listed by Forbes in 2017, the wealthiest of seven billionaires from Ohio who made the list.[33] He was a major funder of the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, which is named in honor of his father.[34]

Wexner explained that because "growing up, my folks moved around a lot, and I never got a good Jewish education", he felt unprepared to take leadership roles in the Jewish community.[35] So, in 1985, he joined Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman to establish the Wexner Foundation's first core program, aimed "to educate Jewish communal leaders in the history, thought, traditions and contemporary challenges of the Jewish people."[35]

Wexner receives Woodrow Wilson award in 2004

In 1991, Wexner formed with billionaire Charles Bronfman the Study Group, which is more widely known as the Mega Group.[36] The group was a loosely organized club of some of the country's wealthiest and most influential businessmen who were concerned with Jewish issues. Max Fischer, Michael Steinhardt, Leonard Abramson, Edgar Bronfman, and Laurence Tisch were some of the members. The group would meet twice a year for two days of seminars related to the topic of philanthropy and Judaism. In 1998, Steven Spielberg spoke about his personal religious journey.[37] The group, which Wexner co-chaired with Charles Bronfman, went on to inspire a number of philanthropic initiatives such as the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, Birthright Israel, and the upgrading of national Hillel.[36]

Wexner served on the board of trustees of Ohio State University from 1988 to 1997. In December 2005, Wexner was appointed to his second term and was elected chairman in 2009. It was announced in June 2012 that Wexner's chairmanship was to end, eight years before his appointment would have ended.[38]

On May 11, 2004, Wexner received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship at a dinner in Columbus, Ohio. The award was presented by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

On February 16, 2011, Wexner pledged a donation of $100 million to Ohio State, to be allocated to the university’s academic Medical Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, with additional gifts to the Wexner Center for the Arts and other areas. This gift is the largest in the university’s history.[39]

Through the L Brands Foundation, Wexner and L Brands contributed $163.4 million to the Columbus Foundation.[40]

On February 10, 2012, Ohio State University Medical Center officially changed its name to the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University commemorating "Mr. Wexner's indelible, lifelong legacy of leadership at Ohio State", according to university president E. Gordon Gee, during over 30 years of "ardent support" of the institution.[41]

Personal life[edit]

On January 23, 1993, Wexner, then 55 years of age, married Abigail S. Koppel, 31, an attorney.[42] The couple have four children.[43]

Formerly of the Bexley area, Wexner now lives in New Albany, a community northeast of near Columbus, Ohio. He owns a 30-room, $47 million, Georgian-inspired estate, on nearly 336 acres (1.36 km2), that was built in 1990. The estate was, for 20 years, the location of the Annual New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix & Family Day (an equestrian show) benefiting The Center for Family Safety and Healing. In February 2018, Abigail Wexner announced the end of the event, citing the growing number of equestrian competitions.[44]

Wexner has owned the mid-18th century Foxcote House in Warwickshire, England, since 1997.[45]

President George W. Bush appointed Wexner to serve in the Honorary Delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[46][47]

Wexner was inducted as an honorary member of the 104th Sphinx Senior Class at Ohio State University on May 7, 2010.[48]

On February 10, 2012, the Ohio State University board of trustees voted to rename the Ohio State University Medical Center in honor of Wexner. Now the medical center is known as Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.[11]

Political activities[edit]

Wexner hosted a fundraiser in 2012 for Mitt Romney[49] and donated $250,000 to Restore Our Future, Romney's super PAC.[50] In 2015, Wexner donated $500,000 to the Right to Rise USA super Pac that supported the 2016 presidential campaign of Jeb Bush.[51]

The Columbus Dispatch reported on September 14, 2018, that Wexner had renounced his affiliation with the Republican Party due to changes in its nature. Wexner made his comment shortly after former President Barack Obama gave a speech on the same Columbus Partnership panel that Wexner addressed.[52][53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wealthiest Republican supporter in Ohio quits party". September 15, 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  2. ^ Goldsmith, Suzanne. "Les Wexner renounces Republican Party affiliation after Obama stops in Columbus". Columbus Dispatch. Columbus, Ohio. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  3. ^ "Bloomberg Business Profile: Leslie Herbert Wexner". Bloomberg News. May 25, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Leslie H. Wexner Biography". Academy of Achievement. February 20, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  5. ^ Steel, Emily; Eder, Steve; Maheshwari, Sapna; Goldstein, Matthew (July 26, 2019). "How Jeffrey Epstein Used for Wealth and Women". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Thomas, Jr, Landon (October 28, 2002). "Jeffrey Epstein: International Moneyman of Mystery". New York. Archived from the original on November 28, 2020. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Leslie Wexner makes a $100 million donation to Ohio State University". Jewish Business News. July 8, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Saxon, Wolfgang (November 10, 2001). "Bella C. Wexner, 93, Matriarch of a Retail Chain". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Meyers, William H. (June 8, 1986). "Rag Trade Revolutionary". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Adler, Carlye (September 1, 2003). "Les Wexner Limited Brands". CNN Money. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Pyle, Encarnacion (February 10, 2012). "Ohio State adds Wexner's name to medical center". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Alexander, Dan (September 30, 2014). "Victoria's Other Secret: The Low-Key Billionaire Behind The Lingerie Giant". Forbes. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
  13. ^ a b c Rushe, Dominic (February 20, 2020). "Les Wexner sells control of Victoria's Secret amid declining sales". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  14. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer; Wyatt, Edward (December 8, 1996). "The Merlin of the Mall Tries Out New Magic". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  15. ^ "Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading". HBS Working Knowledge. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  16. ^ "Fortune 500 2012: Top Companies' CEOs: A - FORTUNE". CNN Money. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  17. ^ "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World 2015". Harvard Business Review. November 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  18. ^ "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World 2016". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  19. ^ a b Thomas Jr., Landon (October 28, 2002). "Jeffrey Epstein: International Money Man of Mystery". New York.
  20. ^ O'Connell, Jonathan; Ellison, Sarah (December 6, 2019). "Former Ohio State athletes call on prosecutors to investigate Wexner, citing Epstein allegations". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  21. ^ a b c d e Steel, Emily; Eder, Steve; Maheshwari, Sapna; Goldstein, Matthew (July 25, 2019). "How Jeffrey Epstein Used the Billionaire Behind Victoria's Secret for Wealth and Women". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  22. ^ Hanau, Shira (February 25, 2020). "Wexner Report Claims Epstein Played 'No Meaningful Role' in Foundation". The New York Jewish Week. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  23. ^ Eder, Steve; Steel, Emily (August 7, 2019). "Leslie Wexner Accuses Jeffrey Epstein of Misappropriating 'Vast Sums of Money'". The New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  24. ^ Orden, Erica; Scannell, Kara (August 12, 2019). "After Jeffrey Epstein's death, prosecutors examine his inner circle". CNN. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  25. ^ Siemaszko, Corky (December 6, 2019). "Former Ohio State wrestlers support Jeffrey Epstein accuser". NBC News. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  26. ^ a b Siemaszko, Corky (February 10, 2020). "Former Ohio State wrestlers call for investigation into university's ties to Jeffrey Epstein". NBC News. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  27. ^ Ell, Kellie (January 15, 2021). "L Brands Founder Leslie Wexner Faces New Complaints About 'Culture of Misogyny' at Victoria's Secret". WWD. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  28. ^ Angermiller, Michele Amabile (August 9, 2022). "TikTok Artist Jax Calls Out Victoria's Secret for 'Making Money Off of Girls Like Me' in Hot 100-Charting Single". Variety.
  29. ^ King, Ashley (August 18, 2022). "Jax Draws Millions of TikTok Views While Responding to Victoria's Secret CEO". Digital Music News.
  30. ^ Göbel, Malte (July 29, 2022). "TikTok-Hit über Schönheitsideale". Der Spiegel.
  31. ^ Dolan, Leah (July 14, 2022). "New documentary unearths troubling links between Victoria's Secret and Jeffrey Epstein". CNN. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  32. ^ "Bella Wexner Dies in New York". Visual Merchandising and Store Design. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  33. ^ Stewart. "Six from Ohio, One from Dayton Area, Make Forbes' Billionaires List".
  34. ^ "History". wexarts.org. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  35. ^ a b "Wexner Heritage Program". Wexner Foundation. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  36. ^ a b Skolnik, Fred; Berenbaum, Michael, eds. (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica (2 ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA and Keter Publishing. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9780028659282. OCLC 70174939.
  37. ^ Miller, Lisa (May 4, 1998). "Titans of Industry Join Forces To Work for Jewish Philanthropy". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  38. ^ "Leslie Wexner to step down from Ohio State Board of Trustees". News Room. June 8, 2012. Archived from the original on August 22, 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  39. ^ "Philanthropy, High Points – The Ohio State University". Ohio State University. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  40. ^ Price, Rita. "Columbus Foundation nets record $326.4 million in donations". The Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  41. ^ "Wexner Medical Center Naming - Office of the President - the Ohio State University". Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  42. ^ "WEDDINGS; Abigail Koppel, Leslie Wexner". The New York Times. January 24, 1993.
  43. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths KOPPEL, YEHUDA". The New York Times. September 27, 2006.
  44. ^ Wilhelm, Jim (February 14, 2018). "Growth in elite equestrian competitions ends New Albany Classic after 20 years". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  45. ^ Luck, Adam; Mendick, Robert (October 24, 2015). "Billionaire tycoon behind Victoria's Secret 'keeps his multi-million Cotswolds estate away from prying eyes'". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  46. ^ "Bush Visit May Boost Olmert – The New York Sun". The New York Sun. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  47. ^ "Statement by the Press Secretary". georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  48. ^ "SPHINX Senior Honorary – Ohio State". sphinx.org.ohio-state.edu. Archived from the original on October 24, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  49. ^ Hallett, Joe (June 19, 2012). "Wexner to host fundraiser for Romney". Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on December 1, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  50. ^ Silva, Mark (June 29, 2012). "Romney's Victoria's Secret: It's Out". Bloomberg. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  51. ^ "Six-Month Total for Pro-Jeb Bush PAC: $103,167,845.83". Bloomberg News. July 31, 2015. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  52. ^ Goldsmith, Suzanne. "Les Wexner renounces Republican Party affiliation after Obama stops in Columbus". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  53. ^ "Billionaire Les Wexner Renounces GOP Membership". Newsweek. September 15, 2018. Retrieved October 15, 2022.

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