Victoria’s Secret billionaire Les Wexner is on track to sell $1.2 billion of company stock this year as he retreats from the lingerie business

Les Wexner
Les Wexner.

  • Les Wexner is on track to sell $1.2 billion of Victoria’s Secret stock this year.
  • This leaves the Wexner family with around a 10% stake in the business.
  • Wexner stepped down as CEO in 2020 shortly after controversy over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Les Wexner, the billionaire businessman behind Victoria’s Secret, is on track to sell $1.2 billion worth of company stock this year.

Wexner, who stepped down as CEO of its parent company L Brands in February 2020 and from its board in March, has been selling large chunks of stock over the past few months – most recently, $745 million-worth.

Wexner and his wife Abigail are among the company’s largest shareholders. According to Bloomberg, this latest sale would leave them with around a 10% stake in the company.

Up until he stepped down last year, Wexner was the longest-serving CEO of any Fortune 500 company. He was credited with transforming Victoria’s Secret into a global powerhouse.

Read more: POWER PLAYERS: Meet the 8 Victoria’s Secret executives helping the company shake off years of scandal and slumping sales

Toward the end of his tenure, Wall Street grew critical of his leadership as sales had slowed and critics said Victoria’s Secret’s brand image was out-of-date.

Activist shareholder Barington Capital wrote a public letter to Wexner in 2019 urging him to address the brand image issues and switch up its predominantly male board of directors.

Wexner stepped down as CEO and chairman the company 2020. At the time, his relationship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein had come under intense scrutiny. Epstein managed Wexner’s money and the two were close friends for several years.

“At some point in your life we are all betrayed by friends,” Wexner said in a statement at the time. “Being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so depraved, is something that I’m embarrassed I was even close to.”

Victoria’s Secret is currently in the midst of a major turnaround effort under new leadership.

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Former Victoria’s Secret head Les Wexner ignored repeated advice about having ties to Jeffrey Epstein, according to an explosive new report

Les Wexner
Les Wexner stepped down from L Brands in 2020.

  • An investigation sheds new light on Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to ex-Victoria’s Secret head Les Wexner.
  • Epstein managed Wexner’s money and the two men were considered to be close personal friends.
  • According to Vanity Fair, Wexner was warned about Epstein in the past.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Les Wexner was warned not to trust Jeffrey Epstein on at least two separate occasions but ignored the advice, according to a new investigation by Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman.

Wexner, the Ohio-based billionaire businessman behind L Brands and Victoria’s Secret, has become a key part of the Epstein story in the past few years. Epstein had managed Wexner’s finances, reportedly beginning in the 1980s, and the two men were considered to be “close personal friends” for several years.

When Epstein was arrested in July 2019, facing sex-trafficking charges, representatives for Wexner said the retail executive had severed ties with Epstein more than 12 years ago.

Read more: Former employees reveal what the billionaire head of Victoria’s Secret is like as a boss as he faces backlash over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein

Wexner later said in a statement that “being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so depraved, is something that I’m embarrassed I was even close to. But that is in the past.”

But Vanity Fair’s report reveals that Wexner was warned about Epstein previously. Insider contacted an L Brands spokesperson for comment but did not immediately hear back.

Jerry Merritt, who worked for Wexner for 25 years as security chief for The Limited (which later became L Brands), told Vanity Fair: “I told Les, ‘I wouldn’t trust Epstein to cross the street – why are you trusting him with your money?’‚ÄČ”

Wexner gave Epstein power of attorney over all his legal and financial matters, which meant the financier could hire people, sign checks, buy and sell properties, and borrow money on Wexner’s behalf. He also became Epstein’s early ticket to the billionaire lifestyle. Epstein flew around in Wexner’s private jet and attended his exclusive parties, according to The New York Times.

Robert Meister, former vice chairman of Aon insurance brokerage, who introduced Wexner to Epstein, told Vanity Fair that shortly after making the introduction he heard concerning stories about Epstein.

“Think of whatever the worst thing anyone could do is, and Epstein did them all,” he told Vanity Fair.

Meister said he later told Wexner not to get involved with Epstein but it was too late. “He thought Epstein was brilliant,” he said.

L Brands hired outside legal counsel in 2019 to investigate the company’s own ties to Epstein following reports that Epstein had used his connection to Wexner as a way to coerce women and girls into performing sexual acts by promising them modeling jobs.

According to the Vanity Fair report, Wexner was warned about Epstein presenting himself as a Victoria’s Secret scout in New York in the early 1990s.

Longtime Victoria’s Secret catalog CEO Cynthia Fedus-Fields was reportedly alerted to this by an executive at the company in 1993. A source familiar with the matter told Vanity Fair that Wexner was told about this and said: “he would stop it.”

A spokesperson for L Brands did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the progress of the investigation into Epstein’s connection to the company.

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Victoria’s Secret owner wants to sell the lingerie brand in a deal worth $2 billion or more – double what it previously asked for

Victoria's Secret
Victoria’s Secret has updated its brand image.

  • L Brands has reportedly restarted talks to sell Victoria’s Secret at a higher price than before.
  • According to Bloomberg, it wants a deal that could value Victoria’s Secret at $2 billion or more.
  • In May 2020, a private-equity firm pulled out of buying a 55% stake in the brand for $525 million.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

L Brands, the owner of Victoria’s Secret, is reportedly on the hunt for a new buyer after a deal with a private-equity firm fell through last year, and is seeking more than double what it wanted before.

Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg wanted a deal that would value the brand at between $2 billion and $3 billion. Previously, Sycamore Partners had agreed to buy a 55% stake in the company for $525 million.

The private-equity firm pulled out in May 2020 after filing a lawsuit claiming Victoria’s Secret’s decision to close stores during the pandemic, cut back on new inventory, and not pay rent for April violated the two companies’ agreement. L Brands later said the decision to split was mutual.

A spokesperson for L Brands did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Friday morning. L Brands CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer confirmed to Bloomberg that the company wanted a considerably higher valuation this time round, after recouping lost sales at the back end of 2020.

“As a result of the substantial improvement in performance at Victoria’s Secret, various sell-side analysts have valued the business at as much as $5 billion,” Burgdoerfer told Bloomberg.

After several years of sliding sales, the Victoria’s Secret brand has made a comeback in recent quarters after reshuffling management and changing its brand image and marketing, which was accused of being outdated. In a recent note to clients, a group of Jefferies analysts described the brand’s progress as “admirable,” after it reported strong fourth-quarter results.

In March this year, former longtime L Brands CEO Les Wexner stepped down from the board after pressure from investors.

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