Ohio has some rich folk in its midst. According to insidermeasure.com, some of Ohio’s wealthiest people include Denise DeBartolo York, the heir to Edward John DeBartolo Sr’s fortune and the current owner of a $3.2 billion fortune; IAMS multi-billionaire Clayton Mathile; Norma Lerner, the widow of MBNA founder Al Lerner; and Randolph Lerner, the son and heir of Al Lerner’s fortune who’s currently reported to be sat on a whopping $1.2 billion. Rich people, all of them… but which is the richest? Which resident of the Buckeye State has the most billions in the bank? Actually, it’s none of the ones we’ve mentioned so far. The richest person in Ohio is, in fact, Les Wexner, the billionaire owner of L Brands, Bath & Body Works, and The Limited who currently commands the staggering net worth of $4.50 billion. But who is he, and how did he get so ridiculously wealthy?
Who is Les Wexner?
If you’re scratching your head over who Les Wexner is, we’re going to assume you haven’t been reading the news recently. Wexner is the latest in the long line of the rich and the famous who’ve been drawn into the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. As WWD notes via Yahoo, the question of just how involved the billionaire will be in the case between Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz remains to be seen. What we do know is that’s he trying to stay as far away from the case as humanely possible. Whether that remains a viable option for much longer, who knows? But let’s rewind. Before he started making salacious news headlines, how was he making his money? Giving young women wings and paying them to walk down a catwalk in their underwear, for a start….
The Man Behind Victoria’s Secret
In 1963, Wexner took his first steps as an entrepreneur when he borrowed $5000 from his aunt and another $5000 from the bank to form The Limited, a retail store that sold affordable skirts, sweaters, and shirts for a quick profit. Over time, the brand grew: by 1976, Wexner was sitting pretty atop a 100 location empire.
The 1980s saw more success come Wexner’s way, starting in 1982 when he purchased the struggling lingerie business Victoria's Secret for $1 million. Over the space of just ten years, Wexner managed to reverse the business’s failing fortunes to such an extent that by 1992, it was worth a reported $1 billion. The success of the business continued for the next two decades, bolstered by the glitz and glamour of the infamous Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
But nothing lasts forever. By 2015, Victoria’s Secret’s fortunes had started to decline. With sales bottoming out, growing controversy over the company’s allegedly misogynistic business practices, and viewership of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show down from 9.2 million viewers in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2018, the brand finally drew a veil over the show and started re-working its business model. In January 2020, reports emerged that Wexner, who was at that point serving as the CEO, was considering stepping down. A few months later, he did just that.
The Other Projects
It’s not just Victoria’s Secret that’s made a billionaire of Wexner. In addition to the lingerie business, his vast retail conglomerate includes Pink (the Victoria's Secret off-shoot for teens), Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel, The White Barn Candle Company, and La Senza. He’s also enjoyed success with Lane Bryant, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lerner New York, The Limited Too (now Tween Brands, Inc.), Structure 9, Aura Science, The Limited, and Express.
The Man Behind the Billions
So, we now know how Wexner made his fortune. But who’s the man behind the billions? What makes the richest man in Ohio tick? For a start, his family. In January 1993, the then 55-year-old Wexner abandoned his confirmed bachelor status when he married 31-year-old attorney, Abigail S. Koppe. The couple (who live in a $47 million, Georgian-inspired estate in New Albany) have gone on to have 4 children, Harry, Hannah, David, and Sarah. In addition to his home in New Albany, Wexner also owns a mid-eighteenth century Grade II listed property in Warwickshire, England named Foxcote House, along with a yacht that at the time of its purchase in 2010, ranked as the largest American-owned private yacht in existence.
Wexner might make billions, but he doesn’t keep all of it for himself. As Wiki notes, Wexner has given away hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable causes over the years, including:
- A $1 million personal donation to the United Way
- $100 million to Ohio State
Numerous gifts to Ohio University’s Academic Medical Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and Wexner Center for the Arts
$163.4 million to the Columbus Foundation
Other philanthropic endeavors worth a mention include his co-chairmanship of the Study Group, a group of the country’s wealthiest and most influential business people that was established to discuss the combined topics of philanthropy and Jewishness, and his foundation, the Wexner Foundation, which was conceived with the intent of supporting Jewish leaders in North America and Israel and supporting local, national, and international Jewish charities. His long-term support of and commitment to the Ohio State University Medical Center, meanwhile, was honored when the institution officially changed its name to Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.
The Epstein Scandal
Prior to 2007, Epstein and Wexner were often pictured together; for all the world could see, the two were on good terms. When the allegations against Epstein emerged, Wexner was quick to cut all ties with Epstein, even going so far as to say the disgraced businessman had stolen $46 million from him. How or why this happened, no one quite knows. Neither do we know what his exact involvement in the case between Virginia Giuffre and Alan Dershowitz is, besides the fact that he strenuously denies any wrongdoing. What we do know is that as the Epstein scandal continues to rumble on, we might be hearing the name Wexner a lot more over the coming months.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee