Les Wexner

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Les Wexner
Leslie Wexner receives woodrow wilson award (cropped).JPG
Wexner in 2004
Born
Leslie Herbert Wexner

(1937-09-08) September 8, 1937 (age 82)
Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
Other names"The Merlin of the Mall"
Alma materOhio State University 1959
OccupationChairman Emeritus of L Brands
Known forFounder of The Limited, former owner of Victoria's Secret
Net worthUS$4.0 billion (March 2020)[1]
Political partyRepublican (before 2018)[2]
Independent (since 2018)[3]
Spouse(s)Abigail S. Wexner (m. 1993)
Children4

Leslie Herbert Wexner[4] (born September 8, 1937) is an American billionaire businessman, the founder and chairman emeritus of L Brands (formerly Limited Brands).[5] Wexner grew a business empire after starting The Limited, a clothing retailer with a restricted selection of profitable items, and later expanded his holdings to include Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, Express, and Bath & Body Works. Wexner announced the sale of a majority stake in Victoria's Secret to Sycamore Partners, and stepped down as CEO of L Brands in February 2020.[5]

Wexner is mainly known for his close, multi-decade relationship with human-trafficker and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The Miami Herald reported on June 23, 2020, that Howard Cooper, an attorney for Alan Dershowitz, admitted in court the possession of court filings and depositions of a woman who testified that she, along with others, was "trafficked" to Wexner.[6]

Early life and education

Leslie Wexner was born in Dayton, Ohio[7] on September 8, 1937, to parents Bella (née Cabakoff 1908–2001)[8] and Harry Louis Wexner (1899–1975).[9][10] His parents were both of Russian-Jewish origin.[5] His father was born in Russia.[5] His mother, a first generation American, was born in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and moved to Columbus, Ohio as a toddler.[9] He has a younger sister, Susan.[9][11] His parents paid tuition for Wexner to attend high school in the wealthy enclave of Bexley.[11] He attended Ohio State University, and although he had expressed an interest in architecture[12] he graduated in 1959[13] with a major in business administration.[7] While at Ohio State University, he became a member of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. Wexner served in the Air National Guard.[5] He briefly attended the Moritz College of Law.[11]

Career

Wexner began his retail career working in his parents' clothing store "Leslie's", which had been named in his honor.[12] After he decided to leave law school, his parents asked him to take care of the store when they went on their first vacation in 10 years.[12] While they were away on vacation he analyzed the profit and loss margins on the women's clothing they sold.[12] He found that although higher-priced clothing (e.g. jackets) had a higher margin per item, they sold less frequently than blouses and were therefore less profitable as a line. When he told his father this, his father was uninterested in changing his inventory.[14]

In 1963, Wexner was lent $5,000 from his aunt Ida which was then matched by a bank in order to start The Limited.[11][12] The store took its name due to its limited focus on moderately priced merchandise such as skirts, sweaters and shirts that turned over quickly and generated greater revenues.[14][11] 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.[citation needed] He opened the second Limited store in August 1964.[12] He took Limited Brands public in 1969, listed as LTD on the NYSE.[12]

A. Alfred Taubman reportedly served as a mentor for Wexner, starting in the mid 1960s, and the two partnered on many deals involving Taubman's shopping malls over the years.[11]

Wexner expanded the Limited considerably in the 1970s, having opened the 100th store in 1976.[11] He took on significant debt in 1978 to purchase the importer and manufacturer Mast Industries, which later was regarded to have provided him with essential business advantages over competitors.[11]

In the 1980s, Wexner doubled his retail holdings by purchasing a number of companies and became known as a major retail owner at malls in America.

In 1982, Wexner acquired the lingerie business Victoria's Secret. 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.[12] Wexner described Raymond as "very guarded" stating "When I met him, it was as if he met the devil."[12] Six months later, when Raymond was facing bankruptcy, he contacted Wexner and offered to sell Victoria's Secret.[12] Wexner bought the company for $1m and by the 1990s it was worth an estimated $1bn.[15] After Wexner assumed ownership, Victoria's Secret became widely known for marketing its items with the use of super models known as "angels" which were featured in an annual fashion show, overseen by Ed Razek.[15] By 2015 sales were in decline and 2018 proved to be the final year for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.[15]

Over the years, Wexner built 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 US-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, ranked #11 in 2015, and #34 in 2016.[17][18]

Jeffrey Epstein association

Wexner had a close relationship with Jeffrey Epstein that began in the 1980s and continued until at least 2007.[19][20] He was the primary billionaire client of Epstein, a financier that claimed to only work with clients with a net worth of one billion USD. Epstein became Wexner's financial manager in 1987.[21] Wexner purchased the New York property, the Herbert N. Straus House, in 1989 and later transferred it to Epstein in the mid-1990s following his marriage to Abigail.[21] In July of 1991, Wexner granted Epstein power of attorney[22] and also instated him as a trustee on the board of the Wexner Foundation.

Wexner has been accused of failing to take action when complaints were raised against Epstein, including 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 of Victoria's Secret models.[22] The artist 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, the 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.[22]

In early 2006, Epstein was charged in Florida with "multiple counts of molestation and unlawful sexual activity with a minor."[22] The New York Times reported that it was 18 months after the charges were raised that Wexner cut his ties to Epstein.[22]

In August 2019, following Epstein's second incarceration and prior to his death, Wexner addressed the Wexner Foundation in writing, releasing a statement that his former financial advisor, Jeffrey Epstein, had “misappropriated vast sums of money” from him and from his family.[23] Wexner retained services of criminal defense attorney Mary Jo White of Debevoise & Plimpton.[24] Wexner faced additional public scrutiny in late 2019 (and again in 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 surrounding the Wexner family's 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.[25][26]

Philanthropy

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.[27]

Wexner was listed by Forbes in 2017, the wealthiest of seven billionaires from Ohio who made the list.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30] 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."[30]

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.[31] 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 Jewishness. In 1998, Steven Spielberg spoke about his personal religious journey, and later the group discussed Jewish summer camps.[32] 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.[31]

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.[33]

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, which will 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 latest gift is the largest in the university’s history.[34]

Through the L Brands Foundation, Wexner and L Brands contributed $163.4 million to the Columbus Foundation.[35]

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.[36]

Personal life

On January 23, 1993, Wexner, then 55 years of age, married Abigail S. Koppel, 31, an attorney, in a ceremony at their home in New Albany, Ohio.[37] The couple have four children: Harry, Hannah, David, and Sarah.[38]

Formerly of the Bexley area of Columbus, Ohio, Wexner now lives in New Albany, a community northeast of that city. He owns a 30-room, $47 million, Georgian-inspired estate, on nearly 336 acres (4 km²), that was built in 1990. The estate, was, for twenty years, the location of the Annual New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix & Family Day benefiting The Center for Family Safety and Healing. The Classic consistently drew the top professional show jumping riders because of its elaborate and well-maintained jumping course.[citation needed] In February 2018, Abigail Wexner announced the end of the event, citing the growing number of elite equestrian competitions.[39]

As a pun on his name and his former residence in Bexley, the village of New Albany was known (unofficially) for some time as Wexley. Today, this Georgian-themed village inspires comparison to eighteenth century developments by wealthy aristocrats in England.[citation needed]

Wexner has owned the mid-eighteenth century Grade II* listed Foxcote House in Warwickshire, England, since 1997.[40]

The Limitless (Palma de Mallorca, 2006)

At the time of its construction in 1997, Wexner's Limitless was the largest American-owned private yacht, measuring 315 feet and 8 inches (96.25 meters) long and 41 feet (12.50 meters) wide. Few authorized images exist, but photographs of the yacht's interior appear in an October 2016 retrospective of the career of the yacht's interior designer, François Catroux, written by David Netto and published by Rizzoli.[41] The Limitless is one of the largest privately owned yachts in use.[42]

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.[43][44]

Wexner was inducted as an honorary member into the 104th Class of Sphinx Senior Class Honorary at The Ohio State University on May 7, 2010.[45]

On February 10, 2012, The Ohio State University board of trustees voted to rename The Ohio State University Medical Center in honor of Wexner, in recognition of his leadership and service to the university and the medical center. Now the medical center is known as Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.[13]

Political activities

Wexner hosted a fundraiser in 2012 for Mitt Romney[46] and donated $250,000 to Restore Our Future, Romney's Super PAC.[47] In 2015, Wexner donated $500,000 to the Right to Rise USA Super-Pac that supported the 2016 presidential campaign of Jeb Bush.[48]

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 Obama gave a speech on the same Columbus Partnership panel that Wexner addressed.[49][50] He has been a political independent since 2018.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Forbes profile: Les Wexner". Forbes. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Wealthiest Republican supporter in Ohio quits party". 15 September 2018. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  3. ^ Monthly, Suzanne Goldsmith, Senior Editor, Columbus. "Les Wexner renounces Republican Party affiliation after Obama stops in Columbus". dispatch.com. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  4. ^ "Bloomberg Business Profile: Leslie Herbert Wexner".
  5. ^ a b c d e "Leslie H. Wexner Biography". Academy of Achievement. February 20, 2020. Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  6. ^ https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article243745007.html
  7. ^ a b "Leslie Wexner makes a $100 million donation to Ohio State University". Jewish Business News. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  8. ^ "Bella Cabakoff". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  9. ^ a b c New York Times: "Bella C. Wexner, 93, Matriarch of a Retail Chain" by Wolfgang Saxon November 10, 2001
  10. ^ "Harry Louis Wexner". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Meyers, William H. (1986-06-08). "Rag Trade Revolutionary". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Adler, Carlye (September 1, 2003). "Les Wexner Limited Brands". CNN Money. Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  13. ^ a b Pyle, Encarnacion (February 10, 2012). "Ohio State adds Wexner's name to medical center". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  14. ^ a b Alexander, Dan. "Victoria's Other Secret: The Low-Key Billionaire Behind The Lingerie Giant". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-09-28.
  15. ^ a b c Rushe, Dominic (2020-02-20). "Les Wexner sells control of Victoria's Secret amid declining sales". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  16. ^ Our annual ranking of America's largest corporations, CNN Money, May 21, 2012
  17. ^ "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World". Harvard Business Review. November 2015. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
  18. ^ "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  19. ^ Hanau, Shira (February 25, 2020). "Wexner Report Claims Epstein Played 'No Meaningful Role' in Foundation". The New York Jewish Week. Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  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 Landon Thomas Jr. (2002-10-28). "Jeffrey Epstein: International Money Man of Mystery". New York Magazine.
  22. ^ a b c d e Steel, Emily; Eder, Steve; Maheshwari, Sapna; Goldstein, Matthew (2019-07-25). "How Jeffrey Epstein Used the Billionaire Behind Victoria's Secret for Wealth and Women". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  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. ^ a b Siemaszko, Corky (December 6, 2019). "Former Ohio State wrestlers support Jeffrey Epstein accuser". NBC News. Retrieved 2020-05-10.
  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 2020-05-10.
  27. ^ "Bella Wexner Dies in New York". Visual Merchandising and Store Design. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  28. ^ Stewart. "Six from Ohio, One from Dayton Area, Make Forbes' Billionaires List".
  29. ^ "History". wexarts.org. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
  30. ^ a b "Wexner Heritage Program" Archived 2010-05-28 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved Jan. 26, 2011
  31. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Judaica. Skolnik, Fred,, Berenbaum, Michael, 1945- (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA in association with the Keter Pub. House. 2007. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9780028659282. OCLC 70174939.CS1 maint: others (link)
  32. ^ Journal, Lisa MillerStaff Reporter of The Wall Street (1998-05-04). "Titans of Industry Join Forces To Work for Jewish Philanthropy". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  33. ^ "Leslie Wexner to step down from Ohio State Board of Trustees". News Room. June 8, 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
  34. ^ "Philanthropy, High Points - The Ohio State University". www.osu.edu. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  35. ^ Price, Rita. "Columbus Foundation nets record $326.4 million in donations". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  36. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2012-02-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^ "WEDDINGS; Abigail Koppel, Leslie Wexner". The New York Times. January 24, 1993.
  38. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths KOPPEL, YEHUDA". The New York Times. September 27, 2006.
  39. ^ Wilhelm, Jim (February 14, 2018). "Growth in elite equestrian competitions ends New Albany Classic after 20 years". Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  40. ^ Adam Luck and Robert Mendick (24 October 2015). "Billionaire tycoon behind Victoria's Secret 'keeps his multi-million Cotswolds estate away from prying eyes'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  41. ^ "Francois Catroux Written by David Netto, Foreword by Diane von Furstenberg - Rizzoli New York - Rizzoli New York". www.rizzoliusa.com. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
  42. ^ "World's 100 Largest Yachts 2008 #14: Limitless". www.powerandmotoryacht.com. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
  43. ^ "Bush Visit May Boost Olmert - The New York Sun". www.nysun.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  44. ^ "Statement by the Press Secretary". georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  45. ^ "SPHINX Senior Honorary - Ohio State". sphinx.org.ohio-state.edu. Archived from the original on 2014-10-24. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  46. ^ Hallett, Joe (19 June 2012). "Wexner to host fundraiser for Romney". Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on 1 December 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  47. ^ Silva, Mark (29 June 2012). "Romney's Victoria's Secret: It's Out". Bloomberg. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  48. ^ Six-Month Total for Pro-Jeb Bush PAC: $103,167,845.83 Bloomberg. July 31, 2015
  49. ^ Goldsmith, Suzanne. "Les Wexner renounces Republican Party affiliation after Obama stops in Columbus". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  50. ^ Porter, Tom, Republican billionaire, wealthiest donor in Ohio, quits 'nonsense' party of Trump, praises Obama, Newsweek, September 15, 2018

External links