Key to Epstein's Fortune: One Unusual Arrangement

Retail mogul Leslie Wexner gave Epstein virtually complete control over his financial life
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 26, 2019 12:55 PM CDT
Key to Epstein's Fortune: One Unusual Arrangement
This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein.   (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP)

Little new has emerged about Jeffrey Epstein since Thursday's reports that he was found injured in his jail cell. Epstein reportedly had bruises on his neck, but as the AP notes, it remains unclear whether they were self-inflicted or caused by an attacker. According to the US Bureau of Prisons, the 66-year-old received treatment and remains in the custody of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. Jail records say nothing of a trip to the hospital. In the meantime, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are out with detailed stories of how Epstein—who is accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls—made his fortune. Coverage:

  • Key figure: In both stories, retail mogul Leslie Wexner (The Limited, Victoria's Secret, L Brands, etc.) factors prominently. The Journal estimates Epstein made $200 million from Wexner alone, after Wexner gave him unprecedented control—including power of attorney—over the management of his finances, charities, and even personal life (as in, drafting a prenup). The Times uses the word "mystery" in assessing why Wexner, then "in the prime of his career," gave up so much control to "an outsider with a thin résumé and scant financial experience."
  • And more: The association with Wexner gave Epstein credibility to craft similar arrangements with other uber-rich clients, including financier Leon Black, Johnson & Johnson heiress Elizabeth Johnson, and hedge-fund operator Glenn Dubin. As the Journal explains, "he became deeply entwined in the financial lives of his clients, who put him in charge of their charities, placed his name on deeds for their properties and let him control their savings." But as the Times notes, Epstein also used his connections to Wexner to gain close access to aspiring young models and actresses.

  • Disturbing: The Times story focuses mostly on Epstein's relationship with Wexner, and the story begins with a jarring allegation from 1997 by a model named Alicia Arden. She says Epstein described himself as a talent scout for Victoria's Secret (owned by Wexner) and tried to molest her in his hotel room before she fled. Arden went to the police, and the Times says that police report (which it viewed) is one of the earliest known allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
  • A pattern: Epstein tried to get inappropriately involved in recruiting lingerie models for Victoria's Secret, two former executives at parent company L Brands tell the Times. They say they informed Wexner, who promised to take care of it. The story adds that Wexner's friends were "mystified" that Epstein had so much sway.
  • One assessment: At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall reacts to the Times story with a post headlined "The Talented Mr. Epstein." The piece "reads like something out of fiction where a young operator takes over the life of an aged billionaire widow or decrepit old plutocrat and enriches himself at their expense, fencing off relatives and business associates in the process," he writes. What's odd, he adds, is that Wexner (now 81) was only in his 50s when he turned over control to Epstein, then in his 30s.
  • Smooth talker: The Journal has fascinating details about the rise of college-dropout Epstein into the world of finance. Starting with this: "As a math teacher at Manhattan’s elite Dalton School, he so impressed the father of one student that the father urged a friend—Bear Stearns Cos. Chief Executive Alan 'Ace' Greenberg—to hire Mr. Epstein. Mr. Greenberg did so in 1976." The rest, as they say, is history.
(More Jeffrey Epstein stories.)

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