PE firm to take Victoria’s Secret private as Leslie Wexner steps down

L Brands CEO has come under scrutiny for ties to Jeffrey Epstein

Leslie Wexner has agreed to sell his controlling stake in Victoria’s Secret to a private equity firm and to relinquish his roles chairman and CEO of L Brands, the chain’s parent company.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the deal, Sycamore Partners will purchase 55 percent of the company and take it private.

The deal values the struggling business at $1.1 billion, a striking fall from its peak valuation of $29 billion in 2015.

Known for its sexy image and focus on “angels,” the lingerie chain has struggled to maintain relevance in the #MeToo era and battled slowing sales as the wider retail industry reckons with a slew of bankruptcies and store closures. In October, Victoria’s Secret announced it would close more than 53 locations across the country. Fifty employees were also laid off that month.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

As the company’s performance dwindled, Leslie Wexner faced mounting scrutiny for his close ties to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, whom he had hired years earlier as a personal adviser. Epstein took his own life in August while in jail awaiting trial.

The 82-year-old Wexner announced his departure from the company he founded in 1963 in a memo to staff Thursday, according to the Journal.

“I’ve thought about where I fit in the picture,” he wrote. “In keeping with this same thoughtful examination, I have decided that now is the right time to pass the reins to new leadership.”

He is expected to continue serving on L Brands’ board. [WSJ] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan