Before being accused of heinous sex crimes in the early 2000s, millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein worked very closely with the head of L Brands, Les Wexner. Not only did Epstein have almost full control of Wexner's finances for several years but he seemed to consider the businessman a close friend, some of which is depicted in Netflix's new documentary Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.
Wexner grew up in Ohio, and after building his retail empire, became known as the Merlin of the Mall per The New York Times. He started his L Brands with The Limited before adding Express, Henri Bendel, Lane Bryant, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria's Secret. While some of his major brands were acquisitions, Bath & Body Works was one his company launched. The retail portfolio — and Wexner — quickly became worth a ton of money, and soon after Wexner met Epstein in the 1980s, it largely fell under Epstein's control.
Despite not having the job experience to manage large sums of money, Epstein got started in finance at Bear Stearns and then went to work for Wexner. According to The New York Times, it's a bit murky as to what exactly Epstein was manageing for Wexner, as they never had a formal work agreement drawn up. However, in 1991, Wexner signed a three-page power of attorney "that enabled Mr. Epstein to hire people, sign checks, buy and sell properties and borrow money — all on Mr. Wexner's behalf," The New York Times wrote in 2019.
Through this working relationship, Epstein managed to acquire Wexner's Manhattan mansion and a plane that belonged to Wexner, though no paperwork ever showed any monetary exchange. Also according to The New York Times, "Mr. Epstein assumed leadership positions in Mr. Wexner's foundations, according to tax records. Two of those foundations contributed a total of about $21 million in stock and cash to a charity that Mr. Epstein had set up, called C.O.U.Q."
In 2006, Epstein was first charged with multiple counts of molestation and unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Eighteen months later, amid Epstein's trial and subsequent sentencing, Wexner broke all ties with him. In 2019, Wexner accused Epstein of "misappropriating 'vast sums' of his personal fortune more than a decade earlier," according to ABC News. However, Wexner has declined to give more information on the issue, just saying, "a $46 million donation in 2008 from Epstein to a foundation run by Wexner's wife, Abigail, represented only 'a portion' of the funds that he recovered from Epstein."
After decades of leading L Brands into a multibillion-dollar corporation, Wexner stepped down in February 2020 as chairman and CEO. He remains chairman emeritus of L Brands.