Les Wexner spent more than five decades building the apparel business he founded with a $5,000 loan from his aunt into one of the world’s biggest fashion retailers.
Now, in just a matter of months, the Ohio billionaire has almost completely severed his ties with L Brands Inc., the owner of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
Wexner, 83, completed the sale of about $2.2 billion shares of L Brands this week, according to a regulatory filing late Monday, taking his total disposals this year to about $2.7 billion and leaving him with a stake of less than 2 percent. Wexner has a net worth of $10 billion, with his L Brands holding now making up just a fraction of his wealth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
A spokesperson for L Brands declined to comment on the founder’s share sales. It’s the most stock Wexner has offloaded in a single year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Wexner stepped down in May from the board of the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer after retiring as chief executive officer last year.
Wexner is separating himself from a very different company than it was in its heyday. Over the years, L Brands was made up of several different retailers including The Limited, Express, Lane Bryant and Abercrombie & Fitch.
It’s unclear how the stock sales will reshape the fortune of Wexner and his family, whose interests outside L Brands span art, city planning, equestrianism and philanthropy.
Wexner has previously parlayed the proceeds of his retail empire into other investments including real estate, with the billionaire acquiring a rural estate in Warwickshire, England, as well as designing and building his own town — New Albany — just outside of Columbus. Earlier this year, the Wexner family also surfaced as the buyers of golfer Greg Norman’s $60 million South Florida compound, according to the Real Deal.
Billionaires have been liquidating large tranches of stock this year as markets hit record highs. US public company insiders offloaded shares worth $36 billion this year through June, with about half through trading plans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. L Brands’s shares have soared more than 700 percent since hitting a five-year low in early 2020 as the company worked to shore up its underwear and bath products businesses in the wake of the pandemic.
Wexner has received more than $5 billion from L Brands through stock sales and dividends over the past four decades, according to Bloomberg’s wealth index. In addition to real estate, he and his wife Abigail have amassed an extensive art collection, including works by Willem de Kooning and Pablo Picasso.
Wexner’s long-time money manager, Jeffrey Epstein, killed himself in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial for sex crimes. Wexner said he cut ties with Epstein in 2007 and later accused him of deception and misappropriating “vast sums of money from me and my family.”
By Sophie Alexander and Ben Stupples
Further Reading: How L Brands Brought Victoria’s Secret Back From the Brink
After spending the last year boosting the lingerie retailer’s financial health, its owner is planning a spinoff.