Angels and Demons’ exposes Les Wexner, the mysterious billionaire behind Jeffrey Epstein
HHow did Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious child predator and sex trafficker, amass his vast fortune? Yes, the late fund manager rubbed shoulders with everyone from Bill Gates and Bill Clinton to Prince Andrew and Donald Trump, but like the new Hulu docuseries Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons (July 14) argues that one of the biggest sources of certified creep money was none other than billionaire Les Wexner, the “Merlin of the mall.”
Wexner, a thin man with elvish features (photo Ben Gazzara), was hardly a paragon of chic. Although he was the man behind retail giant L Brands – whose portfolio at one time included retailers The Limited, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, Lane Bryant, Henri Bendel, Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret – Wexner has maintained a relatively low profile in his native country. Ohio, away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi.
Everything seemed to change the moment Epstein entered his life in the mid-1980s. The 40-year-old Wexner dyed his hair and gave his wardrobe a makeover. His parties were now followed by Epstein’s list of celebrities. In 1985, Wexner graced the cover of New York magazine accompanied by the title “The Bachelor Billionaire”. And in 1989, according to an article in The Washington Posta diary entry for Wexner dated September 1, 1989, read, “I finally love myself.”
Weeks before Epstein died in his jail cell awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, The New York Times published a revealing presentation detailing Wexner’s ties to Epstein. The report revealed, among other things, that Wexner was Epstein’s only known billionaire client; that Epstein had acquired his Manhattan townhouse, private jet (later dubbed the “Lolita Express”) and other properties from Wexner at a bargain price; that Wexner reportedly waited 18 months to sever ties with Epstein after he was arrested for child prostitution in 2006; and that an investigation by the Oregon Attorney General found that Victoria’s Secret directly assisted Epstein’s legal defense in 2006, voluntarily providing information against one of Epstein’s accusers, who had worked for Victoria’s Secret. (A statement from Wexner in the film claims that Wexner cut ties with Epstein in 2008 and was unaware of his abuse.)
“After the second arrest, it became increasingly clear that Wexner was one of his biggest clients, and much of Epstein’s wealth came from the work he did for Wexner,” says Matt. Tyrnauer, director of Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons. “Then more troubling details emerged, including that he had a power of attorney that gave him access to vast amounts of Wexner’s wealth.”
Indeed, in a highly unusual move, Wexner, now 84, granted Epstein a power of attorney in 1991 that the Time reported “allowed Mr. Epstein to hire people, write checks, buy and sell properties, and borrow money” on Wexner’s behalf, and that Epstein was granted “full power and authority to do and perform all necessary acts” for him. Wexner too Told vanity lounge in 2003 that Epstein was “highly intelligent with a combination of excellent judgment and unusually high standards. Moreover, he is still a very loyal friend.
As Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons reveals, Epstein was deeply entangled in Wexner’s life, serving as a trustee of his charitable foundation (going so far as to push his mother) and was even tasked with getting him a nanny after he married Abigail Koppel. At one point, Epstein lived in a mansion adjacent to Wexner in New Albany, Ohio, a tony town of Georgian-style homes that Wexner had designed to his specifications (Epstein reportedly bought the house from Wexner for $3.5 million) . And it is in this house that Maria Farmer, a young New York artist, claims to have been assaulted by both Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell, the latter recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for sex trafficking Epstein girls.
Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons claims Farmer was trapped in a room in Epstein’s New Albany home and was so scared she piled furniture against the door to prevent Epstein and Maxwell from entering the room. The film says she tried to report it to the local police at the time – who had a relationship with the Wexner family, since they basically ran the town – as well as the FBI, to no avail.
“Epstein lives next door to Wexner and one of his most sinister crimes appears to be taking place behind the very dignified Georgian facade of this huge guest house…”
“Epstein lives next door to Wexner and one of his most sinister crimes seems to be taking place behind the very dignified Georgian facade of this huge guest house,” Tyrnauer says. “That scene was very revealing. It’s almost like a David Lynch movie where things strive to be too perfect, and when you look closer you see the grass isn’t greener, and in this case, bad things were happening with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in this house that had featured in Architectural Summary like this super luxurious mansion in the plains of Ohio.
Epstein also allegedly exploited his ties to Wexner by posing as a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret models. Cindy Fedus-Fields, former CEO of Victoria’s Secret Direct, says in the film: “In the spring or summer of 1993, it was reported to Les [Wexner] that a man was walking around New York City posing as a recruiter for models from the Victoria’s Secret catalog. It was Jeffrey Epstein. And Les said he would stop. I don’t believe the behavior has stopped. I believe it continued. (Wexner’s lawyer claimed that Wexner prohibited Epstein from acting in this way.)
Alicia Arden, an actress who had appeared on Baywatch and in Playboy, says the behavior hasn’t stopped. She says in an interview in the film that she met Epstein in 1997 at the Shutters Hotel in Santa Monica for what she thought was a Victoria’s Secret audition, only to ask him to pose in a bra and panties. before touching her ass and trying to give her $100. She alleges she “felt like a prostitute” and then filed a sexual abuse report against him.
When Epstein died in 2019, he left behind an estimated fortune of $600 million, of which only $125 million was distributed to his victims. And, following the Time article about his ties to Epstein, Wexner came forward and, in a letter to the Wexner Foundation, broke his relative silence on his ties to Epstein by saying the late sex criminal had “embezzled huge sums of money from him. “totalling approximately $46 million.
Meanwhile, Sarah Ellison, a Washington Post journalist interviewed in Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demonsestimates that Wexner paid Epstein around $400 million during their business relationship.
“Wexner is known to be litigious, yet he won’t sue Epstein for stealing millions and millions of dollars?” Ellison asks in the film. “Allowing this level of betrayal and dishonesty to go unpunished is totally unexplained.”
Tyrnauer is still confused about how Epstein, a former high school math teacher who was fired from Bear Stearns for breaching finances and was later linked to the Towers Financial Corp scheme. Ponzi, was able to earn Wexner’s trust to the point where he had power of attorney and control over large sums of his fortune.
“I think there are three big tricksters of the last hundred years: Roy Cohn, the subject of one of my previous films; his mentee, Donald Trump; and Epstein,” Tyrnauer offers. “The con was so epic and fell under everyone’s nose.”