Les Wexner below strain as L Manufacturers stories earnings
The corporate, which additionally owns Tub & Physique Works, has seen its shares fall 37% yr up to now. Gross sales have lagged at Victoria’s Secret as buyers more and more see its merchandise as exclusionary and too provocative within the #MeToo period.
Maybe most troubling of all of the shadows over Wexner, nevertheless, is that of late intercourse prison Jeffrey Epstein. The retail tycoon earlier this yr acknowledged his shut ties to Epstein, together with that he gave the disgraced financier energy of lawyer.
However in contrast to another rich and highly effective Epstein associates, Wexner has but to face penalties for his relationship with the accused little one intercourse trafficker, who died earlier this yr. There have been no public cries for Wexner’s resignation from board members or notable buyers.
L Manufacturers is predicted to report its third-quarter earnings after the bell on Wednesday.
Past a couple of public expressions of remorse over Epstein, little has modified for Wexner, who’s 82. He stays CEO and chairman of L Manufacturers, in addition to one in every of its largest shareholders, with a virtually 17% stake, in line with FactSet.
The corporate’s board stays largely composed of a variety of folks pleasant to Wexner that one trade insider known as “the Ohio Mafia.” They embody his spouse, Abigail Wexner, American Electrical Energy CEO Michael Morris and Huntington Bancshares CEO Stephen Steinour. L Manufacturers, Huntington Bancshares and American Electrical Energy are all based mostly in Columbus, Ohio.
Wexner mentioned in August he first met Epstein within the mid-1980s by pals who vouched for the financier. Epstein was a trustee of the Wexner Basis, though Wexner has mentioned Epstein had no government duties. In a letter to the inspiration in August, Wexner mentioned Epstein had misappropriated greater than $46 million from Wexner and his household years in the past. He solely not too long ago supplied paperwork to federal prosecutors in regards to the lacking cash. He has not defined why he didn’t pursue prices when he found the funds have been lacking.
“Being taken benefit of by somebody who’s … so wicked is one thing I am embarrassed I am even near,” Wexner mentioned on the L Manufacturers’ investor day in September.
“We’re all betrayed by pals,” mentioned Wexner. “On the finish of the day, folks have secret lives as a result of … they’re so good at hiding these secrets and techniques.”
Epstein, whose loss of life in a jail cell in August was dominated a suicide by hanging, was arrested in July on federal little one intercourse trafficking prices. He was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage ladies from 2002 by 2005 at his large townhouse in New York Metropolis and his mansion in Palm Seaside, Florida. He pleaded responsible in 2008 to soliciting an underage prostitute in Florida. He served 13 months in jail for the cost, although a lot of that point he was granted work launch.
L Manufacturers has mentioned it reduce ties with Epstein practically 12 years in the past and known as his alleged crimes “abhorrent.” The corporate has been working with authorized counsel to assessment the corporate’s ties to Epstein, despite the fact that it has mentioned it doesn’t consider he ever served as a certified consultant of the corporate. Wexner’s spouse, Abigail, beforehand labored on the legislation agency L Manufacturers employed to conduct the assessment, Davis Polk.
Epstein had friendships or associations with a number of of the richest and strongest males on the earth, together with Presidents Donald Trump and Invoice Clinton. Microsoft founder Invoice Gates has mentioned he made a mistake in assembly with Epstein years after the financier pleaded responsible to intercourse crimes.
A few of Epstein’s well-connected associates have confronted blowback. Prince Andrew of Britain misplaced a minimum of one company sponsor of his Pitch@Palace initiatives following a disastrous interview with the BBC about Epstein. Prince Andrew mentioned Wednesday he’ll “step again from public duties for the foreseeable future.”
Entrepreneur Joi Ito earlier this yr resigned from his position as director of MIT Media Lab and several other company boards after admitting he took cash from Epstein.
Whereas Wexner has but to face any such penalties, there have been modifications on the L Manufacturers board that predate the Epstein revelations.
Activist fund Barington Capital Group in March despatched a letter to L Manufacturers criticizing the corporate’s efficiency. It mentioned the board members’ “social and enterprise relationships” with Wexner raised “critical questions as to the true independence” of its administrators.
L Manufacturers and Barington reached a truce in April that added the fund as a particular advisor to the corporate. The settlement additionally added board members Anne Sheehan, chair of the Securities and Alternate Fee’s investor advisory committee, and Sarah Nash, CEO of Novagard Options.
The take care of Barington allowed Wexner to stay on the board, regardless of Barington’s authentic competition the twin position of CEO and chairman gave him an excessive amount of energy.
L Manufacturers has explored a number of choices that may maintain Wexner in energy, an individual accustomed to the matter mentioned, cautioning these explorations could not lead to a deal.
They embody a spin-off of the Victoria’s Secret model, which has confronted slowing gross sales as buyers have shunned its attractive merchandise that some view as exclusionary, a picture the retailer is making an attempt to beat. Tub & Physique Works, however, has continued to carry out strongly, boosted partially by its worthwhile candle enterprise.
L Manufacturers has additionally explored an funding generally known as “non-public funding in public fairness” with monetary buyers, the individual mentioned. Such a deal would assist L Manufacturers pay down its debt, which stood at $8.6 billion as of July 2019, in line with FactSet.
It might even be a vote of confidence in Wexner’s management, regardless of the mounting challenges he faces.
L Manufacturers declined to remark.