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L Brands founder and CEO Les Wexner is further distancing himself from alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The mogul behind Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works on Wednesday accused Epstein, his friend and finance manager, of misappropriating more than $46 million.
“I am embarrassed that, like so many others, I was deceived by Mr. Epstein,” Wexner wrote in a letter to his charity, Wexner Foundation Community. “I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path.”
Epstein managed Wexner’s finances for years, though the beauty and fashion billionaire said he only noticed the funds were missing in 2007, when he cut ties with Epstein as allegations against him were coming to light in Florida. Last month, Epstein was arrested and charged with sex-trafficking crimes involving girls as young as 14 years old.
“We discovered that he had misappropriated vast sums of money from me and my family. This was, frankly, a tremendous shock, even though it clearly pales in comparison to the unthinkable allegations against him now,” Wexner wrote. “With his credibility and our trust in him destroyed, we immediately severed ties with him.”
He said they were able to recover some of the funds, in part through a $46 million donation by Epstein to Wexner’s YLK Charitable Fund in 2008. “All of that money — every dollar of it — was originally Wexner family money,” Wexner wrote.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Epstein’s lawyer for comment.
Epstein pleaded not guilty to charges in July. In a letter to employees in July, Wexner said he was “NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment,” according to The New York Times.
Wexner’s outing of Epstein comes after a weeklong series of news for Victoria’s Secret, which is undergoing an image crisis following the cancellation of its televised fashion show in May (last year’s ratings were the lowest ever at 3.3 million viewers). On Sunday, news broke that the lingerie brand hired its first transgender model and the next day, L Brands chief marketing officer Edward Razek resigned, almost a year after saying plus-size and transgender models don’t belong in the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows.
On Tuesday, more than 100 models co-signed a petition with Time’s Up and former Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive to demand Victoria’s Secret joins the model-led anti-abuse program RESPECT, created by The Model Alliance in New York. One of their grievances was Wexner’s ties to Epstein, perhaps sparking Wednesday’s note from Wexner claiming that he, too, was a victim of Epstein.
Executives at L Brands knew Epstein was pitching himself as a model recruiter for Victoria’s Secret, according to The New York Times. Epstein allegedly pretended to be a talent scout and “lured” a woman into his hotel room and attacked her. On July 24, L Brands announced it hired outside legal counsel to investigate any connections between Epstein and the label.
A Victoria’s Secret spokesperson told THR in a statement on Wednesday: “We are always concerned about the welfare of our models and want to continue to have dialogue with the Model Alliance and others to accomplish meaningful progress in the industry.”
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