The Mysterious Billionaire Behind Jeffrey Epstein Is Exposed in a New Documentary

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos by Getty / Hulu
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos by Getty / Hulu

How did Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious child predator and sex trafficker, amass his vast wealth? Yes, the late money manager rubbed shoulders with everyone from Bill Gates and Bill Clinton to Prince Andrew and Donald Trump, but as the new Hulu docuseries Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons (July 14) contends, one of the certified creep’s biggest money sources was none other than billionaire Les Wexner, the “Merlin of the Mall.”

Wexner, a slight man with elfin-like features (picture Ben Gazzara), was hardly a paragon of posh. Despite being the man behind retail behemoth L Brands—whose portfolio at one point included retailers The Limited, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, Lane Bryant, Henri Bendel, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria’s Secret—Wexner maintained a relatively low profile in his native Ohio, far from the prying lenses of the paparazzi.

That all seemed to change around the time Epstein entered his life in the mid-1980s. The forty-something Wexner dyed his hair and upgraded his wardrobe. His soirees were now attended by Epstein’s roster of celebrity acquaintances. In 1985, Wexner graced the cover of New York magazine accompanied by the headline “The Bachelor Billionaire.” And in 1989, according to a piece in The Washington Post, a diary entry of Wexner’s dated Sept. 1, 1989, read: “I finally like myself.”

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A few weeks before Epstein died in his prison cell while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, The New York Times published an eye-opening exposé detailing Wexner’s ties to Epstein. The report revealed, among other things, that Wexner was Epstein’s only publicly known billionaire client; that Epstein had acquired his Manhattan townhouse, private jet (later dubbed the “Lolita Express”), and other properties from Wexner at a heavy discount; that Wexner allegedly waited 18 months to cut ties with Epstein after he was busted for child prostitution in 2006; and that an Oregon attorney general’s investigation said that Victoria’s Secret had directly aided Epstein’s legal defense in 2006, voluntarily providing intel against one of Epstein’s accusers, who had worked for Victoria’s Secret. (A statement from Wexner in the film claims that Wexner cut ties with Epstein in 2008 and was not aware of his abuses.)

“After the second arrest, it became increasingly clear that Wexner was one of his biggest clients, and so much of Epstein’s wealth came from the work he did for Wexner,” says Matt Tyrnauer, director of Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons. “Then, more troubling details emerged—including that he had power of attorney that gave him access to vast amounts of Wexner’s wealth.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Donald Trump and his then-girlfriend Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida, February 12, 2000. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Davidoff Studios/Getty</div>

Donald Trump and his then-girlfriend Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida, February 12, 2000.

Davidoff Studios/Getty

Indeed, in a highly unusual move, Wexner, now 84, granted Epstein power of attorney in 1991 that the Times reported “enabled Mr. Epstein to hire people, sign checks, buy and sell properties and borrow money” on Wexner’s behalf, and that Epstein was granted “full power and authority to do and perform every act necessary” for him. Wexner also told Vanity Fair in 2003 that Epstein was “very smart with a combination of excellent judgment and unusually high standards. Also, he is always a most loyal friend.”

As Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons reveals, Epstein was deeply entangled in Wexner’s life, serving as trustee of his charitable foundation (going so far as pushing his mother out of it) and was even tasked with procuring a nanny for him following his marriage to Abigail Koppel. At one point, Epstein lived in a guest mansion adjacent to Wexner in New Albany, Ohio, a tony town of Georgian-style homes that Wexner had designed to his specifications (Epstein had reportedly purchased the home from Wexner for $3.5 million). And in that home is where Maria Farmer, a young artist from New York, alleges she was assaulted by both Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell, the latter recently sentenced to 20 years behind bars for sex-trafficking girls to Epstein.

Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons asserts that Farmer was imprisoned in a room in Epstein’s New Albany home and was so frightened that she stacked furniture up against the door to prevent Epstein and Maxwell from entering the room. The film says she tried to report it to local police at the time—who had a relationship with the Wexner family, since they basically ran the town—as well as the FBI, to no avail.

“Epstein is living next door to Wexner and one of his most sinister crimes appears to take place behind the very dignified Georgian façade of this massive guest house,” explains Tyrnauer. “That scene was very telling. It’s almost like a David Lynch movie where things are striving to be too perfect, and when you look more closely you see that the grass is not greener, and in this case, bad things were happening with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in this house that had been featured in Architectural Digest as this super-luxurious mansion on the plains of Ohio.”

Epstein is also alleged to have exploited his ties to Wexner by posing as a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret models. Cindy Fedus-Fields, former CEO of Victoria’s Secret Direct, says in the film, “In the spring or summer of ’93, it was reported to Les [Wexner] that a man was going around New York City portraying himself as a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret catalog models. It was Jeffrey Epstein. And Les said he would stop it. I don’t believe the behavior stopped. I believe it continued.” (Wexner’s lawyer claimed Wexner forbid Epstein from acting in such a fashion.)

Alicia Arden, an actress who had appeared on Baywatch and in Playboy, claims that the behavior did not stop. She says in an interview in the film that she met Epstein in 1997 at the hotel Shutters in Santa Monica for what she thought was a Victoria’s Secret audition, only to have him request that she pose in a bra and panties before groping her butt and attempting to give her $100. She alleges that she “felt like a prostitute,” and that she then filed a sexual battery report against him.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Les Wexner</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Hulu</div>

Les Wexner

Hulu

When Epstein died in 2019, he left behind an estimated $600 million fortune—only $125 million of which has been distributed to his victims. And, following the Times piece about his ties to Epstein, Wexner came forward and, in a letter to the Wexner Foundation, broke his relative silence about his Epstein ties by saying that late sex criminal had “misappropriated vast sums of money” from him totaling around $46 million.

Meanwhile, Sarah Ellison, a Washington Post reporter interviewed in Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons, estimates that Wexner paid Epstein around $400 million over the course of their business relationship.

“Wexner is known as being litigious, and yet he won’t pursue Epstein for stealing millions upon millions of dollars?” asks Ellison in the film. “To allow that level of betrayal and dishonesty to happen unpunished is entirely unexplained.”

Tyrnauer is still confused as to how Epstein, a former high school math teacher who was dismissed from Bear Stearns over finance violations and was then connected to the Towers Financial Corp. Ponzi scheme, was able to gain the trust of Wexner to the point where he had power of attorney and control over large sums of his wealth.

“I think there are three great con men of the last hundred years: Roy Cohn, the subject of a previous film of mine; his mentee, Donald Trump; and Epstein,” offers Tyrnauer. “The con was so epic and went down right under everyone’s nose.”

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