NEW YORK (AP) — The founder, chairman and CEO of Victoria’s Secret parent L Brands says he is “embarrassed” by his former ties with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Les Wexner delivered the remarks during his opening address Tuesday at the company’s annual investor day in Columbus, Ohio. The remarks came months after reports of his ties with Epstein surfaced.
Being taken advantage of by someone “so sick, so cunning, so depraved is something that I’m embarrassed that I was even close to,” Wexner said, according to a recording of the meeting. “But that is in the past.”
Epstein was arrested in July on federal sex-trafficking charges, drawing new attention to allegations he had sexually exploited women and girls. He killed himself in jail in August while awaiting trial.
Wexner has said he completely severed ties with Epstein nearly 12 years ago. Epstein started managing Wexner’s money in the late 1980s and helped straighten out the finances for a real estate development backed by Wexner in a wealthy Columbus suburb.
It was through Wexner that Epstein acquired his Manhattan mansion, a seven-story, 21,000 square foot former prep school less than a block from Central Park.
Wexner sold his entire interest through which he owned the home to an entity owned by Epstein on Nov. 11, 1998. The home, located across the street from the Frick Collection and a residence owned by Bill Cosby, has been valued at approximately $77 million. It’s considered one of the largest single residences in Manhattan.
Wexner publicly accused Epstein of misappropriating “vast sums” of his fortune after Epstein was charged by federal authorities this summer. He didn’t offer details on the alleged thefts.
The apology comes as Wexner, along with other L Brands executives, are under pressure to turn around its once crown jewel brand Victoria’s Secret after loyal fans have fled for other alternatives like Adore Me and Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie collection that offer more comfortable fits and a more inclusive image.
L Brands’ chief marketing officer Ed Razek resigned in August after making controversial comments last year about why transsexuals shouldn’t be models at its annual fashion show. Victoria’s Secret also has said it would pull its iconic annual fashion show from network TV.
At Tuesday’s investor meeting, the company offered videos of a new ad campaign that offered fuller figure models. Still, the plan to turn around the Victoria’s Secret brand was not packed with many details.
L Brands’ shares rose nearly 4%, or 69 cents to close at $18.56 Tuesday. Shares have been nearly down 33% since January.