Jeffrey Epstein forged an enigmatic relationship with Victoria's Secret billionaire Les Wexner: A timeline
Ever since New York financier Jeffrey Epstein's arrest earlier this month, the registered sex offender's life has been put under a microscope with every minute detail of his life publicly scrutinized. The media probe into Epstein's life has revealed his personal connections with multiple high-profile figures including President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and British royals. However, there is one distinguished figure whose name continues to re-emerge in the Epstein scandal: Leslie H. Wexner, the billionaire CEO and founder of Victoria's Secret parent company, L Brands.
Wexner, with a net worth of $4.8 billion and owner of brands like Pink, and Bath & Body Works, is the only publicly known client of Epstein, who left the New York-based investment bank Bear Stearns in 1981 to start his own firm, exclusively managing the money of billionaires. Although the Victoria's Secret head has distanced himself from Epstein ever since news of his involvement with sex trafficking started making rounds, people close to them have said the pair were "close personal friends."
Epstein was arrested by federal agents July 6 in New Jersey after his return from a Paris trip and was charged with child sex trafficking in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591. He is suspected of sex trafficking minors in Florida and New York.
The new charges against the billionaire suggest the Department of Justice's attempt to redeem its 2008 decision where a top federal prosecutor cut a questionable plea deal with the investor accused of engaging in sex with dozens of underage girls. Although police found evidence suggesting he had regularly molested and trafficked dozens of underage girls, he was handed a sentence of just 13 months of part-time custody in county jail.
Wexner partly behind Epstein's rise to prominence?
Despite Epstein's life being under the scanner, his business practices continue to be shrouded in mystery as the exact sources of his income have not yet been established. The sex offender, who has been labeled a "billionaire" might not actually be one, according to Forbes. The New York magazine, in 2002, published a story stating many of Epstein's reported claims were just bluster: "It’s like looking at the Wizard of Oz — there may be less there than meets the eye." He is reported to have over $550 million in assets.
When Wexner employed Epstein to manage his money, it reportedly left many on Wall Street baffled, with bankers wondering why would a renowned retailer tycoon hire a financier nobody knew to manage his money and assets. The billionaire maintained his relationship with Epstein for nearly two decades, which became pivotal for the financier's eventual wealth and prominence as other influential personalities began to know him.
Why did Wexner put Epstein in charge of his accounts?
According to SEC filings from the 1990s through the mid-2000s, Epstein was listed as one of the three trustees of The Wexner Foundation, including his other charitable organizations: Arts Interests, Health and Science Interests, Health and Science Interests II, The Wexner Children’s Trust II, and International Charitable Interests.
Epstein's relations with Wexner, going by the filings, appeared to pertain to the billionaire's personal business matters rather than his retail empire. However, the L Brands' executives were aware of the financier's influence of Wexner.
One of Wexner's companies' former vice-chairs, Robert Morosky, while speaking to Vanity Fair in 2003, said: "Everyone was mystified as to what his appeal was." Another executive of the firm said, "He literally came out of nowhere."
Epstein, while speaking to Vanity Fair reporter Vicky Ward in 2003, said he and Wexner were introduced through insurance executive Robert Meister and his late wife, however, his account of when the meeting took place later changed. The money manager told Ward at the time what their partnership was like: "People have said it’s like we have one brain between two of us: each has a side.”
Wexner had earlier said their connection was based on complementary skill sets: "I think we both possess the skill of seeing patterns. But Jeffrey sees patterns in politics and financial markets, and I see patterns in lifestyle and fashion trends."
Sources reportedly told Ward, Epstein eventually became Wexner's "hatchet man" and took on his messy legal battles, "Whenever there is dirty work to be done he’d stick Jeffrey on it. ... He has a reputation for being ruthless but he gets the job done."
Did Epstein purchase the infamous Manhattan mansion from Wexner for zero dollars?
With Epstein's arrest, his $77 million dollar Manhattan mansion has been making news as he allegedly sexually abused underage girls along with his sex trafficking dealings there. Latest reports stated that the now infamous seven-story, 21,000-square-foot mansion, one of the city's largest private homes, was given to him by Wexner.
Reports stated the duo was so close, the billionaire, who bought the property in 1989 for $13.2 million, gave it to the financier for $0, according to Bloomberg. Records reportedly stated no money was exchanged in the transaction, which transferred the property ownership to Maple Inc., a Virgin Islands-based trust controlled by Epstein.
Prosecutors now are trying to seize the Upper East Side mansion, as according to an indictment unsealed Monday, the property was home of one of several sites where Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls." A weekend raid of the mansion by investigators uncovered "hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of sexually suggestive photographs."
Maria Farmer's allegations
Maria Farmer, one of the alleged victims of Epstein, in April, claimed the predator sexually assaulted her on different occasions in the 1990s, according to The Daily Beast. Farmer added that one of the occasions occurred while she stayed at Wexner's mansion in Ohio, where the billionaire currently lives with his family. Farmer's allegations suggest Epstein and Wexner could have had a deeper relationship than what was publicly laid on by the billionaire.
One of Epstein's accusers, Italian model Elisabetta Tai, recently also linked Wexner's firm Victoria's Secret with Epstein, stating the sex offender used the firm to lure in young aspiring models, telling them he could provide them a gig with the company.
A former Manhattan-based model agent told The New York Post of an alleged Epstein-Victoria’s Secret pimp pipeline. "He [Epstein] portrayed himself as the backdoor to get a girl into Victoria’s Secret. Some of those girls got in,” he said. “It was still significant cash for a young model doing the catalog,” said the agent. “They weren’t making hundreds of thousands but they could make about $5,000 a week modeling for the campaigns or the catalog. Not all the girls sent to him got jobs, but a lot of them did."
L Brands shares fall as Wexner's ties to Epstein come under scrutiny
Just days after Wexner's connections with Epstein came under the scanner, the shares of L Brands tumbled by more than four percent last week. L Brands is the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. The stock plunge cost Wexner $53 million on paper, given his 17.35 percent ownership in the company.
Shortly after the plunge, Wexner came out in public to distance himself from Wexner. Reports stated the billionaire distanced himself from Epstein shortly after reports of his involvement in sex trafficking began to make news in 2006-2007. Wexner's last SEC documents where Epstein is mentioned as a signatory are dated 2005. It was that very year when Palm Beach police were alerted of the financier's abuse of underage girls. Wexner, in 2008, reportedly hired former J.P. Morgan executive Dennis Hirsch to handle most of his trusts.
Wexner publicly distances himself from Epstein in the wake of recent events
Wexner, in a letter to his employees Monday, distanced himself from Epstein in the wake of recent events, writing he never knew of his former associate's heinous activities. "I would never have guessed that a person I employed more than a decade ago could have caused such pain to so many people," Wexner wrote. "My heart goes out to each and every person who has been hurt."
"I would not have continued to work with any individual capable of such egregious, sickening behavior as has been reported about him. As you can imagine, this past week I have searched my soul ... reflected ... and regretted that my path ever crossed his," he added. Wexner himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case.
Epstein, last week, pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him and faces at least 45 years of imprisonment if convicted. His attorneys have proposed a whopping $77 million bail for the billionaire along with house arrest. A Manhattan judge Monday postponed Epstein's bail hearing till Thursday, saying he needed more time to think about it in light of fresh accounts of new victims.