Money & Power

Who is Les Wexner, the Billionaire Former Client of Jeffrey Epstein?

Wexner was Epstein's most prominent client-and bought Epstein his Upper East Side mansion, which the FBI raided last week.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES
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On the heels of a new indictment against Jeffrey Esptein for sexual trafficking, renewed attention is being paid to the financial advisor’s past business relationships. One of Epstein’s most frequently mentioned former clients is Leslie Wexner, CEO of L Brands. Here's what we know about the connection between the two men—and Epstein's mysterious finances.

WEXNER BUILT A RETAIL EMPIRE FROM A $5,000 LOAN

Leslie Wexner, 81, is the founder and CEO of L Brands, a retail and fashion empire that includes Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works. He famously started the business in 1963 by borrowing money from his aunt and opening a store called the Limited, which specialized in inexpensive clothing. He took the company public in the 1980s, and today, according to Forbes, his net worth is $4.8 billion.

Wexner and his wife Abigail live in a mansion in New Albany, Ohio a suburban enclave 15 miles north of Columbus, that Wexner redeveloped in the 1990s. The couple are prominent philanthropists and have given away hundreds of millions of dollars through their foundation.

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JEFFREY EPSTEIN
Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

HE WAS EPSTEIN’S MOST PROMINENT CLIENT

Jeffrey Epstein launched a wealth management company shortly after he left a position at Bear Stearns in 1981. He began managing Wexner’s money at the end of that decade and soon became a trustee of the Wexner Foundation. In a 2003 Vanity Fair article, Epstein said of Wexner: “People have said it’s like we have one brain between two of us: each has a side.” Wexner in turn told the magazine, “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.”

EPSTEIN WAS BRIEFLY WEXNER’S NEIGHBOR IN OHIO.

In 1988, Wexner purchased large plots of land in New Albany, which he subsequently developed into a kind of model town with rows of stately Georgian-style townhouses, mixed-use space for business, and a country club with a world class golf course. He also built the enormous estate in which he and Abigail live today. According to a 2002 piece in New York, Epstein became a managing partner in New Albany Property, the real estate holding company behind the project, and briefly owned a mansion near the Wexner home.

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EPSTEIN’S TOWNHOUSE ON EAST 71ST STREET IN MANHATTAN.
Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

HOW DID EPSTEIN END UP WITH WEXNER’S NEW YORK TOWNHOUSE?

Last weekend, investigators used crowbars to pry open the doors of Epstein’s Beaux-Arts townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The building once belonged to Wexner, who purchased it in 1989 from Birch Wathen, a private preparatory school, and then embarked on major renovations. According to Bloomberg, Wexner transferred ownership of the building in 1998 to a Virgin Islands business called NES LLC with which Epstein was affiliated. In 2011, Epstein transferred ownership of the home to Maple Inc., a Virgin Island–based company he controls, according to The New York Times. The transfer document did not list a purchase price, which the Times says indicates “it did not involve any exchange of money.”

WAS WEXNER EPSTEIN’S ONLY CLIENT?

One of the most frequently asked questions about Epstein is where did he get his money. When Epstein opened his money management firm in the ’80s, he claimed he would only take on accounts worth $1 billion or more and that he would provide his clients strict confidentiality. Over the years, he spoke openly about Wexner in interviews but did not mention others. Investigative reporter Vicky Ward, who wrote the 2003 Vanity Fair profile of Epstein, reported that Epstein provided services in the 1980s to Steven Jude Hoffenberg, a financier who in 1995 plead guilty to running a ponzi scheme.

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In 2010 Forbes published a piece contending that Epstein was himself not a billionaire, despite the fact that he is often described that way in news reports. Several news outlets have begun investigating conspiracy theories about the source of Epstein’s wealth.

THE EPSTEIN CONNECTION IS NO LONGER GOOD FOR BUSINESS

A Wexner spokesman has said that Wexner "severed ties" with Epstein more than a decade ago when charges of sexual misconduct were made. But renewed attention to Epstein’s past has placed an uncomfortable spotlight on the men’s past relationship. In a piece published earlier this week titled “L Brands Falls as Wexner Ties to Epstein Come Under Scrutiny,” Bloomberg noted that while Wexner was not accused of any wrongdoing himself, the negative media attention could hurt the company’s stock price.

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Norman Vanamee
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