After almost a month of media reports and investigations into the financial and personal connections between Leslie H. Wexner and his former money manager, Jeffrey Epstein, Wexner issued a “personal” response to the Wexner Foundation’s community Aug. 7, days before Epstein’s death.
Wexner, L Brands chairman and CEO and founder of the Wexner Foundation, said in an emailed letter Epstein “misappropriated vast sums of money” from Wexner and his family.
“This was, frankly, a tremendous shock, even though it clearly pales in comparison to the unthinkable allegations against him now,” Wexner wrote in the letter.
Epstein, a registered sex offender, was found dead in his jail cell at Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York Aug. 10. New York City’s chief medical examiner determined Aug. 16 suicide by hanging was the cause of death. Epstein had been on suicide watch but was taken off before his death, multiple news sources reported.
Wexner has not issued any subsequent statements about Epstein.
Epstein was first convicted in 2008 of soliciting a teenage girl to prostitution. He served 13 months in prison. Last month he was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy by federal prosecutors in New York City and was denied bail. He allegedly was involved in sex trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005.
Wexner said in the letter although Epstein “vehemently denied” the initial allegations against him in Florida, by early fall 2007 “it was agreed that he should step back from the management of our personal finances.” It was in that process the misappropriation of funds was discovered, according to Wexner, and he immediately severed ties with Epstein.
“We were able to recover some of the funds,” Wexner said in the letter. “The widely reported payments Mr. Epstein made to the charitable fund represented a portion of the returned monies. All of that money – every dollar of it – was originally Wexner family money.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported Epstein donated $47 million through his private foundation and company to the former YLK Charitable Fund, a charity established by Wexner’s wife, Abigail Wexner, in January 2008 – after Epstein was indicted in Florida for soliciting sex from girls. The YLK Charitable Fund shut down years later and its remaining assets went to the Wexner Family Charitable Fund, another foundation the family has used to support charities.
The letter said Wexner met Epstein in the mid-1980s and friends had recommended Epstein as a “knowledgeable financial professional.” Epstein “represented that he had various well-known and respected individuals both as his financial clients and in his inner circle,” according to Wexner.
It is now known Wexner was likely Epstein’s highest-profile client.
“Based on positive reports from several friends, and on my initial dealings with him, I believed I could trust him,” Wexner’s letter read.
The letter said as part of managing Wexner’s personal finances, Epstein was given power of attorney – which Wexner said was “common in that context” – and had wide latitude in acting on Wexner’s behalf in regard to finances, which was also reported by The New York Times late last month.
As had been previously reported, Epstein was a trustee of the Wexner Foundation, headquartered in New Albany, Ohio, from the early 1990s to mid-2000s. Wexner said in his statement Epstein had no executive responsibilities in running the foundation and did not work directly with its staff or engage with leadership initiatives.
The Wexner Foundation does a variety of philanthropic work, including running several Jewish leadership training programs.
L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, PINK and Bath & Body Works, also announced it has brought in outside counsel to investigate any connections between Epstein and the company.
Wexner continued in his letter he is “embarrassed that, like so many others, I was deceived by Mr. Epstein. I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path.”
“As the story has unfolded further, and the extent of the pain caused by Mr. Epstein continues to grow, I have spent time reflecting and searching for answers as to how this could have happened. My heart goes out to each person who has suffered unthinkable pain and I pray for their healing.”