The Story Behind the New Victoria's Secret Hulu Doc and the Billionaire Ex-CEO Les Wexner's Shrewd Business Tactics
Les Wexner's business acumen and bizarre personal ties are examined in Hulu's new documentary series, "Victoria's Secret: Angels and Demons."
Once the dominant player in women's lingerie, the star power of Victoria's Secret has been declining in recent years. But now the lingerie brand is back in the spotlight, thanks to Hulu's three-part documentary series, Victoria's Secret: Angels and Demons.
The documentary, which first aired on July 14 in the U.S., chronicles the billionaire and former CEO Leslie "Les" Wexner's fall from grace and explores the ties between Wexner and disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in jail in 2019.
Here's a look back at billionaire Les Wexner's journey with the company, and all of the controversy along the way.
Why is it called Victoria's Secret?
Victoria's Secret got its name from none other than Queen Victoria herself. Why was the British monarch the namesake of the United States brand?
Per Elle, American businessman Roy Raymond wanted to evoke "the taboo/hidden nature of lingerie and underwear" in that era — because part of his founding inspiration came from his own discomfort when he'd shop for underwear for his wife.
Raymond wanted to establish a shop reminiscent of Victorian-era boudoirs — sophisticated, respectable — while nodding to the "secret" of lingerie hidden under clothing.
Who was the original owner of Victoria's Secret, and when did Les Wexner buy Victoria's Secret?
Roy Raymond started the company with his wife Gaye in 1977; the couple opened the first store in Palo Alto, then opened five more and launched the accompanying catalog.
Raymond sold the company to Wexner in 1982 for $1 million, and in just 10 years, Wexner transformed it into a billion-dollar brand.
In 1993, Raymond died by suicide after jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
What does Les Wexner own, and where is Les Wexner now?
In 2020, after nearly 60 years, Wexner retired as CEO and chairman of L Brands Inc. The next year, he also left the L Brands board, effectively severing his connection with the company he'd founded in 1963.
Despite his complete exit from L Brands, Wexner remains the richest man in Ohio, with a net worth of $5.8 billion.
What are Les Wexner's ties to Jeffrey Epstein?
A significant portion of Hulu's documentary focuses on billionaire Les Wexner's connection to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Wexner was reportedly introduced to Epstein by insurance executive Robert Meister, a mutual friend, and the two immediately hit it off.
According to the documentary, Wexner began giving Epstein control over vast sums of money. Wexner even gave Epstein power of attorney in 1991, per The Washington Post, allowing him "unmitigated control over all of [Wexner's] assets."
Why would Wexner give Epstein complete control over such vast sums of wealth? The documentary doesn't have an answer to that, though Wexner claimed it was simply a business decision. But the series does reveal that Epstein was extremely involved in Wexner's personal life too — urging him to cut off people Epstein didn't like, including Wexner's own mother: The woman was sued by the Wexner Foundation to keep her from taking Epstein's seat on the board.
Wexner broke off his relationship with Epstein in 2007 when the latter was arrested for soliciting a minor for prostitution. Additionally, Wexner reportedly sent L Brands employees a letter in 2019 declaring he was never aware of Epstein's illegal activity. However, that same year, Wexner also revealed Epstein had stolen $46 million from him. Wexner's reputation has taken a hit, with some calling for the investigation of him and Epstein's other associates following the sentencing of Epstein's partner Ghislaine Maxwell.
How much is Victoria's Secret worth today, what does Victoria's Secret own, and why is the company declining?
According to The Wall Street Journal, Victoria's Secret had a valuation of $1.1 billion when it went private in 2020. Sycamore Partners had plans to acquire a majority stake in the company, but the $525 million deal fell through.
The company is trying to rebuild its image following criticism on social media in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and it's enlisted the help of numerous women to do so, including actor Priyanka Chopra, model Adut Akech, and soccer player Megan Rapinoe.
Its 2022 Q1 earnings were better than expected, per CNBC, but the company continues to anticipate challenges ahead.
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