The developing Les Wexner-Jeffrey Epstein connection

Andy Downing
L Brands founder, chairman and CEO Les Wexner speaks at the company's Investor Day at the headquarters in New Albany on Nov. 2, 2017.

The relationship between L Brands CEO Les Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein, a New York financier who was arrested in early July and charged with sex trafficking involving girls as young as 14, was reported on as early as 2002 in a New York magazine profile of Epstein.

In the profile, Wexner is described as Epstein’s “mentor.” “It’s a weird relationship,” said a Wall Street worker who reportedly knew Epstein. “It’s just not typical for someone of such enormous wealth to all of a sudden give his money to some guy most people have never heard of.”

More of the relationship was documented in a pair of articles published last Thursday by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a quick look at some of what was learned.

How the two met

The Times reported that Wexner and Epstein were introduced by a mutual friend, insurance executive Robert Meister, in the 1980s and immediately started spending significant time with one another, though it’s unclear if any business arrangement existed at the time.

By 1991, Wexner had granted Epstein power of attorney, allowing Epstein the authority to hire people, buy and sell property and borrow money—all on Wexner’s behalf. The Times also reported that in the late 1980s, Epstein even managed the construction and design of Wexner’s 316-foot yacht, dubbed Limitless.

Epstein’s connection to Wexner ended in 2007, and Wexner has said he had no awareness of Epstein’s alleged crimes. In a July email to L Brands employees, Wexner wrote, “I would never have guessed that a person I employed more than a decade ago could have caused such pain to so many people.”

The mystery of Epstein’s work for Wexner

According to the Times, “Representatives of Mr. Wexner and L Brands refused to share even basic details of the work that Mr. Epstein performed for Mr. Wexner.”

“While Mr. Epstein served as Mr. Wexner’s personal money manager for a period that ended nearly 12 years ago, we do not believe he was ever employed by nor served as an authorized representative of the company,” said Tammy Roberts Myers, a company spokeswoman.

At the direction of the company’s board, L Brands recently retained lawyers to review the relationship between Wexner and Epstein.

The financial windfall

The Journal estimated that the business relationship between the two netted Epstein at least $200 million, placing his total fortune at more than $500 million.

The Victoria’s Secret ties

In the Times, former Victoria’s Secret model Alicia Arden said that Epstein attempted to undress her in 1997 after introducing himself as a talent scout. “His weapons were his hands,” said Arden, who filed a police report.

The Times also reported that, around the time of the alleged Arden assault, two senior executives at L Brands told Wexner that Epstein had been telling people he was a Victoria’s Secret recruiter, describing the development as “troubling” because Victoria’s Secret sourced models from talent agencies and not individuals.

Nearly a decade later, in 2006, Epstein was charged in Florida with multiple counts of molestation and unlawful sexual activity with a minor. It would be another 18 months before Wexner finally cut ties for good.