Retail tycoon Leslie Wexner will leave the helm of his L Brands as the retail conglomerate sells off its struggling Victoria’s Secret chain.
The 82-year-old billionaire — who, in addition to criticism of the lingerie giant’s supermodel-driven marketing has weathered scrutiny of his past ties to Jeffrey Epstein — will step down as CEO and chairman of L Brands.
Wexner will step down after buyout firm Sycamore Partners takes control of Victoria’s Secret in a deal valuing the underwear chain at about $1.1 billion, the company announced Thursday.
Sycamore will pay about $525 million for a 55-percent stake in Victoria’s Secret, which will become a separate privately held company with L Brands holding the remaining 45 percent, according to a news release.
That appears to be a steep discount for a brand that posted more than $7 billion in net sales during L Brands’ 2018 fiscal year.
Whitney Tilson, founder of Empire Financial Research, said he believes L Brands botched the Victoria’s Secret deal describing it as a “fire sale,” saying Sycamore should have paid at least double for the lingerie giant.
“The only rational explanation I can come up with for selling this asset at such a low price is that the business is a lot worse than people think,” Tilson told The Post.
Wexner has led the company he founded for 57 years — the longest-running CEO stint in the S&P 500. Following his exit, Warren Buffett will become the longest-tenured CEO in the S&P 500, having led Berkshire Hathaway for 50 years.
Wexner will remain on the L Brands board but will eventually be replaced as CEO by Andrew Meslow, whom the company named chief executive of Bath & Body Works, the conglomerate’s beauty retailer that will become a standalone public company.
“Les Wexner is a retail legend who has built incredible brands that are household names around the globe,” Allan Tessler, L Brands’ lead independent board director, said in a statement. “His leadership through this transition exemplifies his commitment to further growth of Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret and driving overall shareholder value.”
News of the deal sent L Brands shares down 11.3 percent to $21.81 in premarket trading as of 9:04 a.m.
Long a dominant player in the global lingerie market, Victoria’s Secret has recently wrestled with falling sales and allegations of inappropriate behavior toward its models that were detailed in a New York Times exposé earlier this month.
Reports emerged in January that L Brands was in talks to sell the brand to Sycamore, which has previously snapped up flailing retail outfits such as Talbots, Limited, Hot Topic and Nine West.
Wexner — the longest-serving CEO of an S&P 500 company — has also faced questions about his relationship with Epstein, the pedophile financier who died by suicide last August while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Wexner has said he’s “embarrassed” about his connections to Epstein and has accused him of misappropriating more than $46 million while serving as Wexner’s money manager.
Victoria’s Secret recorded more than $1.4 billion in total sales for the quarter that ended in early November. That amount accounted for more than half of L Brands’ roughly $2.6 billion in sales for the quarter but marked a 7.6 percent decrease from the comparable period in the prior year.
By contrast, Bath & Body Works saw sales rise in that quarter to about $1 billion from roughly $956 million the year before. Combined international sales for Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works were roughly flat at about $133 million.
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