Leslie Wexner, a close friend of late billionaire and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, stepped down Thursday as CEO of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands, effectively ending his control over the retail empire he founded decades ago.
“Today is the beginning of an important new chapter in the evolution of the enterprise,” Wexner wrote in an email to staffers.
The move comes just days after five former wrestlers at Ohio State University, for which Wexner and his wife are two of the biggest donors, requested that the state inspector general investigate the school’s relationship with Epstein. The former wrestlers previously accused Ohio State of failing to protect them from sexually abusive doctor Richard Strauss.
The athletes contend that Wexner’s wife, Abigail Wexner, “helped Jeffrey Epstein sexually assault a young woman named Maria Farmer” in 1996 at a property in Ohio “owned and secured” by the Wexners.
“We turn to you for help, primarily because of Abigail Wexner’s status as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees at OSU,” the wrestlers stated in a letter earlier this month. “Given these public allegations against Mrs. Wexner, it is extremely difficult for us to comprehend why OSU maintains its relationship with Abigail Wexner and her family.”
Leslie Wexner ceded vast control over his wealth to Epstein, allowing the billionaire financier to manage his money even as far as borrowing money on Wexner’s behalf, signing his tax returns, and making acquisitions, and appointing him a trustee of the Wexner Foundation.
Epstein died in August in his Manhattan jail cell, sparking a Justice Department investigation. His death came a day after court documents were unsealed detailing allegations that the billionaire operated a sex-trafficking ring that abused underage girls as young as 14.
Wexner has since expressed regret about his close relationship with Epstein.
“Being taken advantage of by someone who is … so depraved is something I’m embarrassed I’m even close to,” Leslie Wexner said in September. “In the present, everyone has to feel enormous regret for the advantage that was taken of so many young women.”
“The decision to take this action comes after thorough and thoughtful examination by our Board of the opportunities available to drive long-term value for associates, partners and shareholders,” an L Brands spokeswoman said.
Wexner, 82, will remain chairman emeritus of L Brands after his departure.