Les Wexner exits board, severs last ties to retail empire

NEW YORK (AP) — Billionaire retail icon Les Wexner is severing his last ties with the retail empire that he founded in 1963.

L Brands, which operates Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, said Thursday that Wexner, 83, along with his wife Abigail, will not stand for reelection to the board at the annual shareholders’ meeting in May.

The company, based in Columbus, Ohio, also announced that Francis Hondal, president of loyalty and engagement at Mastercard, and Danielle Lee, chief fan officer for the National Basketball Association, have been named as two new independent members of its board.

With these changes, the board will consist of 10 directors, nine of whom are independent and six of whom are women, including the chair.

The news to leave the board follows Wexner’s decision to step down as CEO and chairman of the board of L Brands to become chairman emeritus last year.

“I am more confident than ever that we have very positive momentum as we approach the planned separation into two businesses,” Wexner said in a statement. “Now is an ideal time for Abigail’s and my transition from the board.“

Wexner transformed one clothing store under The Limited moniker into a global empire that housed a number of labels such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, Lane Bryant and Victoria’s Secret. But the company struggled in recent years, hurt by competitors’ more inclusive strategies as well as increasing competition from online and discounters that offered better prices.

Then, Wexner’s reputation took a beating after being tied up in a controversy over his relationship with the late Jeffrey Epstein, his long-time money manager, who was accused of paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then sexually abusing them at various locations.

The company said in February it intended to complete the separation of its Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works businesses by August.

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