Les Wexner, the billionaire founder of L Brands, maintained a close friendship with Jeffrey Epstein despite repeated warnings about the late, disgraced financier’s character from those in the retail mogul’s personal and professional circles, according to a Vanity Fair report published Tuesday.
According to Vanity Fair, at least three people—including two of Wexner’s former employees and a close friend—told the billionaire, who has said he knew nothing of Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking of underage girls, to stay away from him.
Robert Meister, an insurance mogul who introduced the two in the late 1980s, said he and his wife “begged” Wexner to cut ties with Epstein soon after they heard concerning stories about his sexual proclivities.
“Think of whatever the worst thing anyone could do is, and Epstein did them all,” Meister told Vanity Fair, claiming he and his wife urged Wexner to cut ties with Epstein “hundreds of times” over many years.
Harold Levin, Wexner’s financial advisor, and Jerry Merritt, who ran security for L Brands (then named The Limited) for 25 years, also said they warned Wexner about Epstein’s trustworthiness.
Levin said he told Wexner that Epstein was a fraud after he visited his office in New York and found no signs of the trading operation he claimed to run, and was shocked to see Wexner hire Epstein a few months later.
Citing an anonymous source, Vanity Fair also reported Wexner was warned that Epstein was presenting himself as a Victoria’s Secret scout in New York in the early 1990s as a way to coerce women.
A spokesperson for the Wexner family declined a request for comment from Forbes.
“I told Les, ‘I wouldn’t trust Epstein to cross the street—why are you trusting him with your money?” Merritt recalled to Vanity Fair.
Wexner gave Epstein power of attorney over all his legal and financial matters, meaning he had the power to buy and sell property, borrow money on Wexner’s behalf, hire people, sign checks and more. “Les gave him free rein over his checkbook,” said Merritt. Reports that Epstein leveraged his connection to Wexner to coerce girls prompted an investigation into Wexner and L Brands in 2019. Though the results of this probe were never made public, Wexner has since stepped away from all official roles at L Brands. The billionaire claims he wasn’t aware of the criminal activity Epstein has been accused of, including trafficking underage girls for sex, and has accused Epstein of misappropriating more than $46 million of his personal fortune while serving as his money manager. However, the billionaire has refused to expand upon the scope of the alleged theft and news outlets have pointed out that Wexner never sued Epstein or reported the alleged crime to the FBI. Epstein was found hanged in his jail cell while awaiting trial in August 2019. His associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been charged with the crimes of enticement of minors and sex trafficking of underage girls, is now awaiting her own trial in a jail in Brooklyn, New York.
$6.6 billion. That’s how much Wexner is worth, according to Forbes estimates.
“Report: Leslie Wexner Says Jeffrey Epstein ‘Misappropriated’ At Least $46 Million From Him” (Forbes)