Victoria's Secret Sold for $525M Amid Months of Scandal as CEO of Parent Company L Brands Steps Down

Retail tycoon Les Wexner has led L Brands since 1963

Victoria’s Secret is switching to private mode.

On Thursday, the company behind the fashion outlet, L Brands announced that it sold a 55 percent stake of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Pink to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for approximately $525 million, according to a press release.

L Brands, which also owns Bath & Body Works, will retain 45 percent in Victoria’s Secret, making the total valuation $1.1 billion.

With the strategic move, longtime L Brands chairman and CEO Leslie H. Wexner will step down from the role. According to ABC News, 82-year-old Wexner has led L Brands since 1963.

“We believe the separation of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Pink into a privately held company provides the best path to restoring these businesses to their historic levels of profitability and growth,” said Wexner in a statement. “Sycamore, which has deep experience in the retail industry and a superior track record of success, will bring a fresh perspective and greater focus to the business.”

He added: “We believe that, as a private company, Victoria’s Secret will be better able to focus on longer-term results.”

Leslie Wexner
Jay LaPrete/AP/Shutterstock

It’s no secret the popular lingerie brand has faced a series of controversy of late, including canceling its 2019 fashion show.

Earlier this month, more than 100 models signed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas, urging the company to “take concrete action to change its culture of misogyny and abuse.”

The letter referenced The New York Times‘ recent exposé that accused Victoria’s Secret former CEO Ed Razek of sexual harassment, bullying and creating a culture of misogyny.

Razek denied the allegations in the recent The New York Times‘ article, telling the Times in an email that “the accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context,” adding, “I’ve been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other.”

In response to the Model Alliance letter, an L Brands spokesperson told PEOPLE: “We absolutely share a common goal with Model Alliance to ensure the safety and well-being of models. Our robust Photo Shoot Procedures, including training and oversight, were implemented in May 2019 and reflect elements of the RESPECT Program and beyond. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and remain committed to continuous improvement. We’re always open to engage with those looking to make improvements in the industry.”L Brands also came under scrutiny because of Wexner’s business ties to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

In September, Wexner addressed his relationship to Epstein, who died by suicide in August as he awaited trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. Wexner said he was “embarrassed” by his connections to Epstein, whom he called “so sick, so cunning [and] so depraved,” according to the Associated Press.

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VS store
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According to The New York Times, Wexner’s experience includes ushering in many shopping mall mainstays over the years, playing parts in proliferating Abercrombie & Fitch, Lane Bryant, Express and Limited Too. His company began in 1963 as a clothing shop called the Limited in Columbus, Ohio.

Moving forward, Wexner will serve as chairman emeritus on the board, as Nick Coe takes over Bath & Body Works and Andrew Meslow will become L Brands CEO.

“Les Wexner is a retail legend who has built incredible brands that are household names around the globe,” said Allan Tessler, lead independent board director, in a press release. “His leadership through this transition exemplifies his commitment to further growth of Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret and driving overall shareholder value.”

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