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Les Wexner And L Brands Under Fire After New York Times Investigation

Model Gigi Hadid walks the runway during the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in New York.
Evan Agostini
/
Invision/Associated Press
Model Gigi Hadid walks the runway during the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in New York.

The board of directors for Columbus-based L Brands has released an apology in response to an investigation published by the New York Times about Victoria's Secret's "culture of misogyny."

“With the adoption in recent years of even more robust anti-harassment policies, hotline reporting, and training, we have made significant strides in ensuring that the company provides a safe, welcoming, and empowering workplace for every associate,” the board's statement reads. “We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability.”

Two stories published over the last few days allege that L Brands founder and CEO Les Wexner and former executive Ed Razek permitted a sexist and unsafe work environment within the company's flagship lingerie brand. The Times authors report that the two men "presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment."

The probe features interviews with more than 30 former and current employees, models and other affiliates as well as a review of court filings and other documents. Sources spoke on record about persistent inappropriate conduct from Razek and alleged that some employees faced retaliation for reporting misbehavior.

Additionally, the Times reports that three L Brands executives said Wexner appeared to fail to act on accusations that his late former financial advisor Jeffrey Epstein told aspiring models he worked for Victoria's Secret and later assaulted them. L Brands has faced scrutiny due to the billionaire owner's ties to the accused child sex trafficker, who died by suicide last year.

In a written statement Monday, L Brands’ board of directors noted they are "intensely focused on the corporate governance, workplace, and compliance practices that directly impact our 80,000 associates around the world, nearly 90% of whom are female." The directors also emphasized efforts made in recent decades to ensure what they call a “safe” working environment at the company.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Wexner is negotiating his exit from L Brands, a company he founded and has led for more than 50 years. According to the newspaper's sources, these discussions also include the potential full or partial sale of Victoria’s Secret. 

In August, Razek stepped down from Wexner's company after serving as its chief marketing officer for nearly three decades. In that position, he oversaw Victoria’s Secret's long-running and high-profile annual fashion show, which was canceled in 2019. The future of the fashion show remains uncertain.

As reported by the Times, shares of L Brands stock have fallen over 75% since their peak in 2015. Victoria’s Secret has shuttered a number of stores in recent years.

Born and raised in Ohio, Wexner graduated from The Ohio State University, and his company is headquartered in New Albany. In addition to Victoria’s Secret, the L Brands’ portfolio includes Bath & Body Works and Henri Bendel, among others. Wexner is the longest-serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company.