COLUMBUS, Ohio – Les Wexner, the 82-year-old chief executive of Victoria's Secret parent L Brands, told investors Tuesday he is "embarrassed" by his former close ties to "depraved" Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who killed himself in his jail cell while facing new sex charges.
Wexner made his comments as he kicked off L Brands' investor day, addressing his relationship with Epstein months after reports of their ties emerged. He called Epstein's alleged crimes "abhorrent" and something the company condemns. Wexner is one of a number of wealthy tycoons who associated themselves with Epstein.
"Being taken advantage of by someone who is ... so depraved is something I'm embarrassed I'm even close to," Wexner said. "In the present, everyone has to feel enormous regret for the advantage that was taken of so many young women."
Wexner said in August he first met Epstein in the mid-1980s through friends who vouched for him. Their relationship grew so close that Wexner handed over to Epstein the power of attorney. Epstein was a trustee of the Wexner Foundation, though Wexner has said the financier had no executive responsibilities.
"We are all betrayed by friends," said Wexner. "At the end the day, people have secret lives because ... they're so good at hiding those secrets."
Epstein faced federal charges of sex trafficking involving underage girls when he killed himself last month at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.
Wexner has said he had severed ties with Epstein in the fall of 2007, after previous allegations against Epstein emerged. In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution.
Wexner said he later discovered Epstein had misappropriated more than $46 million of his personal money. Wexner and his legal team have been providing documents to federal investigators that he believes demonstrate "all sorts of irregularities and theft."
Epstein's connections to L Brands are also under investigation. Wexner owns more than 16% of the company he founded, according to FactSet. Its board includes several people with whom he has close business and social relations, including his wife, Abigail.
Allegations have emerged that Epstein said he was a recruiter for Victoria's Secret. A spokesperson for the company has said it "[does not] believe he was ever employed by nor served as an authorized representative of the company."
In July, L Brands disclosed it had hired outside counsel to review the company's relationship with Epstein. The company has said it cut ties with Epstein nearly 12 years ago and called his alleged crimes "abhorrent."