L Brands, Inc. chairman emeritus and former chief executive Les Wexner is leaving the company’s board of directors.
L Brands announced on Thursday that Wexner, and his wife, Abigail, will not stand for reelection to the board at the annual shareholders meeting in May. The billionaire had stepped down as CEO of L Brands in early 2020.
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“Now is an ideal time for Abigail’s and my transition from the Board,” Wexner said in a statement Thursday. “I am deeply honored to have been a part of the lives of so many associates and customers since I first opened the doors in 1963.”
Wexner, who founded then Limited Stores Inc. in 1963, purchased Victoria’s Secret in 1982 and turned it into a powerful retail force. By the mid-1990s, Victoria’s Secret lit up runways and later filled the internet with its supermodels and an annual television special that mixed fashion, beauty and music.
However, in recent years, that glamour has faded and so have sales as the brand struggled to keep up with competition and failed to respond to changing tastes among women who want more comfortable styles.
Meanwhile, Wexner was grappling with his own troubles, including questions over his ties to the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted on sex-trafficking charges.
Epstein served as Wexner’s personal money manager in the late 1980s. He also served on the board of Les Wexner’s charitable foundation for 15 years ending in 2007.
Following a review of the Columbus-based Wexner Foundation by a local law firm, it was determined that Epstein played “no meaningful role” in the budget, finances or accounting practices of the foundation and wasn’t involved at all with its fellowship and leadership programs.
Still, in September 2019, Wexner told investors that he was embarrassed by his ties to Epstein and apologized for the misjudgment.
The board will now consist of 10 directors, nine of whom are independent and six of whom are women, according to L Brands.
In his latest statement, Wexner said that the “board is incredibly well-led” and the company is “well-positioned going into the future.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.