A look back at our most prominent cover star

We’re revisiting one of our bread-and-butter topics in this issue: the life and times of Les Wexner, the richest and most influential person in town. In many ways, to live in Columbus is to live in Wexnerville. He employs more than 8,000 in Central Ohio, chairs the powerful Columbus Partnership and shares his millions with important institutions all over the region. “He’s a titan among titans,” a civic insider told me. “A hero,” said another. “Just imagine if Les Wexner wasn’t in Columbus,” said a third.

I spoke to those three community leaders and several more while reporting on the latest chapter in Wexner’s extraordinary life, the fall of his onetime financial adviser Jeffrey Epstein ("What the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal Means to Columbus and Les Wexner"). In a life filled with extraordinary accomplishments, the sordid Epstein case marks a low point—the first significant scandal Wexner has ever faced. The article explores what Epstein did for Wexner, from managing his money to overseeing the construction of his 316-foot superyacht, Limitless, while also digging into how Columbus is reacting to these developments and what might happen next. Believe it or not, Alan Dershowitz may play a role.

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The story marks the return of Wexner to the cover of this magazine, a familiar place for the retail tycoon. As I worked on this project, I wondered if he might be the subject of more cover stories than anyone else in our 44-year history. A little research confirmed my hunch—specifically, I spent about 15 minutes studying a 2017 two-page ad that celebrated our 500th issue with a collage of all the covers we’d published up to that point. Based on that eye-straining review—and my personal knowledge of our more recent publishing history—I can say pretty confidently that Wexner takes top honors. Including our latest story, I discovered 11 cover articles—many of them written by current publisher Ray Paprocki, our resident Wexnerologist—that were substantially about the L Brands founder. They included the construction of his New Albany mansion (May 1990), the reinvention of his company (October 1997) and his $100 million gift to Ohio State University (January 2012).

Wexner doesn’t really have any competition. In comparison, here are the cover numbers on some other prominent local figures: Buck Rinehart (four), John Kasich (three), Jack Hanna (three) and Woody Hayes (three—four if you count the time his impersonator Roger Thomas appeared on the cover). Sports Illustrated has Michael Jordan, Vanity Fair has Madonna, and it turns out we have Wexner. He’s not as glamorous as those two celebrities, but I’m pretty sure he’s got a nicer boat.

You can check out our coverage of Wexner over the years in a special section on our website devoted to him and fellow Columbus power players, the Wolfe family, at columbusmonthly.com/wolfe-wexner. There’s also a photo slideshow of our Wexner covers.