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Victoria’s Secret owner retains law firm to review company’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

L Brands’ chairman, Les Wexner, once had close ties to the jailed financier

Jeffrey Epstein was charged July 8 with sex trafficking crimes and pleaded not guilty. The Post's Kimberly Kindy breaks down the charges. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Osman Malik/The Washington Post)

L Brands, the owner of Victoria’s Secret, has hired outside counsel to review its relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of sex trafficking who previously managed billions of dollars for the company’s founder and chairman, Les Wexner.

In a statement Thursday, an L Brands spokesman said Epstein had been Wexner’s “personal money manager for a period that ended nearly 12 years ago.” The spokesman called Epstein’s alleged crimes “abhorrent” and said that L Brands took on outside legal help at the direction of its board of directors.

“We do not believe he was ever employed by nor served as an authorized representative of the company,” the company said.

L Brands, which has largely remained silent on Epstein, has seen its stock fall more than 6 percent since Epstein, 66, was arrested nearly three weeks ago and charged with sex trafficking dozens of girls from 2002 to 2005. The case drew significant attention because in 2008, the financier was able to resolve similar allegations by pleading guilty to just two state charges in Florida. He spent about 13 months in jail, with work release privileges, as part of the agreement. The deal, widely criticized as too lenient, was approved by Alex Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in Miami who went on to become President Trump’s labor secretary. Acosta resigned from the Labor Department after the new charges were brought against Epstein.

Epstein was found in his jail cell earlier this week with marks on his neck, The Post reported Thursday. Authorities are trying to determine whether he was attacked or attempted suicide, two people familiar with the matter said. The Bureau of Prisons told The Post that Epstein was currently being housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, and not in a local hospital, though the agency did not say whether he had been hospitalized earlier. For privacy reasons, the BOP said it would not share information on an inmate’s medical condition.

Epstein had traveled in high-powered circles — both professionally and personally — for years. His contacts included Michael Jackson, Michael Bloomberg and the Duke of York, and he mingled with Kennedys, Rockefellers and Rothschilds.

Epstein and Wexner’s relationship stretches back to the 1980s, according to a 2003 profile of Epstein in Vanity Fair. In addition to his role as a money manager, Epstein was also a trustee for the Wexner Foundation, as well as two other family trusts, including one named for Wexner’s four children, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion, which authorities have seized, was originally owned by Wexner.

Jeffrey Epstein, accused of sexually abusing teenage girls, surrounded himself with influential network of defenders

“People have said it’s like we have one brain between two of us: each has a side,” Epstein said of Wexner in the Vanity Fair profile. Wexner has called Epstein “very smart with a combination of excellent judgment and unusually high standards,” though the two have apparently severed ties in the past decade.

Wexner sold his Manhattan townhouse to Epstein in 1998 for $20 million, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Wexner had originally purchased the property for $13.2 million in 1989, public documents show.

In 2011, Epstein transferred the property from a New York-based corporation to one based in the Virgin Islands for $0, public documents show.

Wexner, the son of Russian immigrants, started the Limited in 1963 in a Columbus, Ohio, shopping center. That first year he hit $160,000 in sales. Wexner then founded Express in 1980, then acquired Lane Bryant, Victoria’s Secret, Henri Bendel and Abercrombie & Fitch over the next decade. By the time he opened the first Bath & Body Works store in 1990, the company was making more than $5 billion a year in sales. The company sold its Limited and Express brands in 2007, and earlier this year shut down Henri Bendel after years of slipping sales.

“Leslie Wexner essentially created retail as we know it today,” said Simeon Siegel, a retail analyst for Instinet. “He is one of the fathers of specialized retail. He created brands but also knew when to sell them.”

Today the company has three remaining brands — Victoria’s Secret, Pink and Bath & Body Works — with about 3,000 stores worldwide. It had $13.2 billion in sales last year. Wexner has a net worth of $6.65 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.