- Les Wexner, the billionaire businessman behind L Brands, is reportedly “in discussions” to step down as CEO of the company and sell the Victoria’s Secret brand, according to the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
- Sources familiar with the matter also told The Journal that the company is looking to reach a potential deal in the coming weeks.
- Wexner founded what is now L Brands in 1963 and is the longest-standing CEO of any Fortune 500 company.
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Retail billionaire Les Wexner is reportedly “in discussions” to step down as CEO from L Brands, the company behind Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported.
Sources familiar with the matter told The Journal that Wexner is also considering selling part of, or all of, Victoria’s Secret.
“The company is looking to reach a decision on the potential deal and succession plans in coming weeks,” Journal reporters Khadeeja Safdar and Corrie Driebusch wrote early Thursday morning, quoting their sources.
A spokesperson for L Brands declined to comment on this when contacted by Business Insider.
Wexner founded what is now L Brands in 1963 and is the longest-standing CEO of any Fortune 500 company.
Wexner’s talks of departure comes in light of scrutiny over his relationship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who died by apparent suicide in federal prison in August while facing charges of sexual trafficking of minors.
In the summer of 2019, the company was caught up in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. Epstein previously managed the money of L Brands CEO and founder Les Wexner and two were reportedly once close friends.
L Brands’ board of directors hired an outside law firm to review its relationship with Epstein. In September, Wexner addressed his ties to Epstein at L Brands’ investor meeting.
“At some point in your life we are all betrayed by friends,” Wexner said. “Being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so depraved, is something that I’m embarrassed I was even close to. But that is in the past.”
The news of the possible sale of Victoria’s Secret also comes after several years of declining sales and pressure from analysts and shareholders to address concerns over the business.
While Victoria’s Secret is still the largest lingerie retailer in the US, its market share in the US has dropped in recent years and the brand has been accused of losing relevance among shoppers as its oversexualized ads and racy runway shows fail to resonate in the era of #MeToo.
This came to a head in November, after a Vogue interview with Ed Razek – chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands and one of its longest-standing executives after only Wexner himself – went viral online. Razek told the interviewer that he didn’t think the company’s annual fashion show should feature “transsexuals” because the show is a “fantasy.”
“It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is,” he said in the interview.
His comments sparked an outcry online, which later led to him issuing a formal apology. Razek later stepped down from the company in August.
Lauren Frias contributed to this report.