By Khadeeja Safdar
L Brands Inc. founder and longtime Chief Executive Leslie Wexner said he wasn't aware of his former money manager Jeffrey Epstein's alleged criminal behavior, breaking his silence on the matter to say that his "heart goes out to each and every person who has been hurt."
"I would never have guessed that a person I employed more than a decade ago could have caused such pain to so many people," Mr. Wexner wrote in a memo Monday to employees of his retail company, which owns Victoria's Secret. "I have searched my soul...reflected...and regretted that my path ever crossed his."
Mr. Epstein was indicted in New York on federal sex-trafficking charges stemming from an alleged scheme to exploit underage girls. Federal prosecutors charged him with two counts related to sex trafficking of minors, which together carry a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison if he is convicted.
Mr. Epstein pleaded not guilty in the case. In a motion for bail, Mr. Epstein's lawyer said that his client had complied with the requirements of the nonprosecution deal he reached with federal prosecutors in 2007 in which he admitted to two prostitution-related state charges in exchange for prosecutors promising not to charge him federally.
Mr. Epstein's two-decade relationship with Mr. Wexner, which extended into the 81-year-old's retail companies, charities and personal life, became crucial to Mr. Epstein's eventual wealth and prominence, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
In an affidavit filed in April as part of a defamation lawsuit, one of Mr. Epstein's alleged victims said she was sexually assaulted by Mr. Epstein and an associate in Mr. Wexner's home.
Mr. Wexner said he severed all ties with Mr. Epstein nearly 12 years ago, and "I would not have continued to work with any individual capable of such egregious, sickening behavior as has been reported about him."
Though Mr. Wexner employed Mr. Epstein as his personal money manager, his ties sometimes spilled over into his business. Some former executives said Mr. Epstein tried to offer his input on which women to select as Victoria's Secret models. The company also sold Mr. Epstein an airplane for $10 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In Monday's memo, Mr. Wexner said Mr. Epstein was involved in many aspects of his financial life, "But let me assure you that I was NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment."
Write to Khadeeja Safdar at email@example.com