Leslie H. Wexner (born September 8, 1937) is a billionaire American businessman, and the founder and CEO of the L Brands (formerly Limited Brands) corporation. He has been a political independent since 2018.
Leslie Wexner receives the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship in 2004
|Residence||New Albany, Ohio, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Ohio State University|
|Occupation||Chairman and CEO of L Brands|
|Net worth||US$6.1 billion (March 2017)|
|Political party||Republican (before 2018)|
Independent (since 2018)
|Spouse(s)||Abigail S. Wexner|
|Parent(s)||Bella Cabakoff Wexner|
Early life and education
Wexner was born on September 8, 1937, to a Jewish family in Dayton, Ohio, to Bella (née Cabakoff) and Harry Wexner. He has one sister, Susan. He attended Ohio State University, majoring in business administration. He became a member of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. He briefly attended the Moritz College of Law.
Wexner started working in his parents' clothing store. While they were away on vacation he analyzed the profit and loss margins on the women's clothing they sold. He found that although higher-priced clothing (e.g. jackets) cost more money, they sold less frequently than blouses, which sold at a faster rate. When he told his father this, his father was uninterested in changing his inventory.
In 1963, Wexner was lent $5,000 from an aunt to start The Limited (so named because the store focused on a limited amount of merchandise that turned over quickly and had a higher profit margin, unlike his parents' store).
The Limited opened its first store in the Kingsdale Shopping Center in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. Wexner's parents closed their store a year later and joined their son at The Limited. Wexner took Limited Brands public in 1969, listed as LTD on the NYSE. Wexner is the longest serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Wexner was ranked #11 on Harvard Business Review’s Top 100 Best Performing CEOs of 2015, and #34 in 2016.
Over the years, Wexner built a retailing and marketing conglomerate that currently includes Victoria's Secret, Pink (Victoria's Secret), Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel, The White Barn Candle Company, and La Senza. Previous brands that were spun off include: Lane Bryant, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lerner New York, The Limited Too (now Tween Brands, Inc.), Structure 9, Aura Science, The Limited (which has closed its brick-and-mortar stores while retaining its online presence), and Express (which has closed its Canadian stores and hundreds of its US-based stores).
Jeffery Epstein association
Wexner had a close relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, who managed his financial assets; the two parted when Epstein went to prison. Wexner was believed to be the primary source of Epstein's wealth. In August 2019, following Epstein's second incarceration, Wexner addressed the Wexner Foundation by letter, delivering a detailed account of his dealings with Epstein, stating that the former financial advisor had “misappropriated vast sums of money” from Wexner and from his family. Wexner retained services of criminal defense attorney Mary Jo White of Debevoise & Plimpton.
In 1989, Wexner and his mother Bella were the first to make a $1 million personal donation to the United Way. Both of their names were inscribed in marble, and are on display in the lobby of the United Way Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
Wexner explained that because "growing up, my folks moved around a lot, and I never got a good Jewish education", he felt unprepared to take leadership roles in the Jewish community. So, in 1985 he joined Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman to establish the Wexner Foundation's first core program, aimed "to educate Jewish communal leaders in the history, thought, traditions and contemporary challenges of the Jewish people."
In 1991, Wexner formed with billionaire Charles Bronfman the Study Group, which is more widely known as the Mega Group. The group was a loosely organized club of some of the country's wealthiest and most influential businessmen who were concerned with Jewish issues. Max Fischer, Michael Steinhardt, Leonard Abramson, Edgar Bronfman, and Laurence Tisch were some of the members. The group would meet twice a year for two days of seminars related to the topic of philanthropy and Jewishness. In 1998, Steven Spielberg spoke about his personal religious journey, and later the group discussed Jewish summer camps. The group, which Wexner co-chaired with Charles Bronfman, went on to inspire a number of philanthropic initiatives such as the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, Birthright Israel, and the upgrading of national Hillel.
Wexner served on the board of trustees of Ohio State University from 1988 to 1997. In December 2005, Wexner was appointed to his second term and was elected chairman in 2009. It was announced in June 2012 that Wexner's chairmanship was to end, eight years before his appointment would have ended.
On May 11, 2004, Wexner received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship at a dinner in Columbus, Ohio. The award was presented by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
On February 16, 2011, Wexner pledged a donation of $100 million to Ohio State, which will be allocated to the University's academic Medical Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, with additional gifts to the Wexner Center for the Arts and other areas. This latest gift is the largest in the University's history.
Through the L Brands Foundation, Wexner and L Brands contributed $163.4 million to the Columbus Foundation.
On February 10, 2012, Ohio State University Medical Center officially changed its name to the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University commemorating "Mr. Wexner's indelible, lifelong legacy of leadership at Ohio State", according to university president E. Gordon Gee. "For more than three decades, Mr. Wexner has been one of the University's most committed leaders and ardent supporters. His generous contributions, both in time and resources, have been wholly transformational, but his most valuable gift has been his remarkable leadership."
On January 23, 1993, Wexner, then 55 years of age, married Abigail S. Koppel, 31, an attorney, in a ceremony at their home in New Albany, Ohio. The couple have four children: Harry, Hannah, David, and Sarah.
Formerly of the Bexley area of Columbus, Ohio, Wexner now lives in New Albany, a community northeast of that city. He owns a 30-room, $47 million, Georgian-inspired estate, on nearly 336 acres (4 km²), that was built in 1990. The estate, was, for twenty years, the location of the Annual New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix & Family Day benefiting The Center for Family Safety and Healing. The Classic consistently drew the top professional show jumping riders because of its elaborate and well-maintained jumping course. In February 2018, Abigail Wexner announced the end of the event, citing the growing number of elite equestrian competitions.
As a pun on his name and his former residence in Bexley, the village of New Albany was known (unofficially) for some time as Wexley. Today, this Georgian-themed village inspires comparison to eighteenth century developments by wealthy aristocrats in England.
At the time of its construction in 1997, Wexner's Limitless was the largest American-owned private yacht, measuring 315 feet and 8 inches (96.25 meters) long and 41 feet (12.50 meters) wide. Few authorized images exist, but photographs of the yacht's interior appear in an October 2016 retrospective of the career of the yacht's interior designer, François Catroux, written by David Netto and published by Rizzoli. The Limitless is one of the largest privately owned yachts in use.
On February 10, 2012, The Ohio State University board of trustees voted to rename The Ohio State University Medical Center in honor of Wexner, in recognition of his leadership and service to the university and the medical center. Now the medical center is known as Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.
Wexner hosted a fundraiser for Mitt Romney in 2012. Wexner donated $250,000 to Restore Our Future, Romney's Super PAC. In 2015, Wexner donated $500,000 to the Right to Rise USA Super-Pac that supported the 2016 presidential campaign of Jeb Bush.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on September 14, 2018 that Wexner had renounced his affiliation with the Republican Party due to changes in its nature. Wexner made his comment shortly after former President Obama gave a speech on the same Columbus Partnership panel Wexner would address.
- Forbes: The World's Billionaires - Leslie Wexner March 18, 2017
- "Wealthiest Republican supporter in Ohio quits party". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
- Monthly, Suzanne Goldsmith, Senior Editor, Columbus. "Les Wexner renounces Republican Party affiliation after Obama stops in Columbus". dispatch.com. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
- Chernikoff, Helen; Kook, Elana (December 9, 2014). "Victoria's Other Secret: She Pays For Rabbinical School Company CEO Leslie Wexner, also the brains behind tonight's V.S. fashion show, has paid for 450 Jewish leaders' graduate educations". The New York Jewish Week.
- "Leslie Wexner makes a $100 million donation to Ohio State University". Jewish Business News. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
- New York Times: "Bella C. Wexner, 93, Matriarch of a Retail Chain" by Wolfgang Saxon November 10, 2001
- Alexander, Dan. "Victoria's Other Secret: The Low-Key Billionaire Behind The Lingerie Giant". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-09-28.
- Our annual ranking of America's largest corporations, CNN Money, May 21, 2012
- "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
- "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
- Landon Thomas Jr. (2002-10-28). "Jeffrey Epstein: International Money Man of Mystery". New York Magazine.
- "Why Sex Offender Jeffrey Epstein Is Not A Billionaire". Forbes.com. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
- Eder, Steve; Steel, Emily (August 7, 2019). "Leslie Wexner Accuses Jeffrey Epstein of Misappropriating 'Vast Sums of Money'". The New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
- Orden, Erica; Scannell, Kara (August 12, 2019). "After Jeffrey Epstein's death, prosecutors examine his inner circle". CNN. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
- "Bella Wexner Dies in New York". Visual Merchandising and Store Design. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
- Stewart. "Six from Ohio, One from Dayton Area, Make Forbes' Billionaires List".
- "History". wexarts.org. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
- "Wexner Heritage Program" Archived 2010-05-28 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved Jan. 26, 2011
- "Wexner Heritage Program" Archived 2010-05-28 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved Jan. 26, 2011
- Encyclopaedia Judaica. Skolnik, Fred,, Berenbaum, Michael, 1945- (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA in association with the Keter Pub. House. 2007. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9780028659282. OCLC 70174939.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Journal, Lisa MillerStaff Reporter of The Wall Street (1998-05-04). "Titans of Industry Join Forces To Work for Jewish Philanthropy". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
- "Leslie Wexner to step down from Ohio State Board of Trustees". News Room. June 8, 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
- "Philanthropy, High Points - The Ohio State University". www.osu.edu. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
- Price, Rita. "Columbus Foundation nets record $326.4 million in donations". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2012-02-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "WEDDINGS; Abigail Koppel, Leslie Wexner". The New York Times. January 24, 1993.
- "Paid Notice: Deaths KOPPEL, YEHUDA". The New York Times. September 27, 2006.
- Wilhelm, Jim (February 14, 2018). "Growth in elite equestrian competitions ends New Albany Classic after 20 years". Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
- Adam Luck and Robert Mendick (24 October 2015). "Billionaire tycoon behind Victoria's Secret 'keeps his multi-million Cotswolds estate away from prying eyes'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- "Francois Catroux Written by David Netto, Foreword by Diane von Furstenberg - Rizzoli New York - Rizzoli New York". www.rizzoliusa.com. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
- "World's 100 Largest Yachts 2008 #14: Limitless". www.powerandmotoryacht.com. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
- "Bush Visit May Boost Olmert - The New York Sun". www.nysun.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
- "Statement by the Press Secretary". georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
- "SPHINX Senior Honorary - Ohio State". sphinx.org.ohio-state.edu. Archived from the original on 2014-10-24. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
- Dispatch, Encarnacion Pyle, The Columbus. "Ohio State adds Wexner's name to medical center". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
- Hallett, Joe (19 June 2012). "Wexner to host fundraiser for Romney". Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on 1 December 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Silva, Mark (29 June 2012). "Romney's Victoria's Secret: It's Out". Bloomberg. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Six-Month Total for Pro-Jeb Bush PAC: $103,167,845.83 Bloomberg. July 31, 2015
- Goldsmith, Suzanne. "Les Wexner renounces Republican Party affiliation after Obama stops in Columbus". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
- Porter, Tom, Republican billionaire, wealthiest donor in Ohio, quits 'nonsense' party of Trump, praises Obama, Newsweek, September 15, 2018