Leslie Wexner to step down from L Brands board
L Brands, Inc., the Columbus, Ohio-based owner of Victoria’s Secret, announced on Thursday that its founder, former CEO and chairman emeritus, Leslie Wexner, will not be standing for re-election to the company’s board at its shareholder meeting in May.
83-year-old Wexner stepped down from his role as CEO of L Brands in May of last year, following pressure from investors. The executive had come under scrutiny due to his relationship with late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who handled Wexner’s personal finances and was also a trustee of his charitable foundation.
Wexner claims that he cut ties with Epstein in 2007, after the first wave of sexual abuse allegations arose, and the former CEO has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.
In a press release published when he stepped down as chief executive, L Brands said that the decision came “after thorough and thoughtful examination by our board of the opportunities available to drive long-term value for associates, partners and shareholders.”
L Brands also revealed on Thursday that Wexner’s wife, Abigail Wexner, will join her husband in not standing for re-election to the company’s board in May.
In the Wexners’ place, the group announced that Francis Hondal, Mastercard’s president of loyalty and engagement, and Danielle Lee, chief fan officer for the National Basketball Association, have been appointed as two new independent board members.
“We are thrilled to welcome Francis and Danielle to the L Brands board,” said board chair Sarah Nash in a release. “Their respective abilities to foster connections with consumers across in-person as well as digital channels will be invaluable as L Brands continues to execute its strategy and deliver engaging shopping experiences.”
As of May 2021, the L Brands board will therefore consist of 10 directors, nine of whom will be independent.
In 2020, the company reported total net sales of $11.85 billion, down 8.3% from $12.91 billion in the previous year. Annual earnings at the group were $844.5 million, or $3.00 per share, increasing from a net loss of $366.4 million, or $1.33 per share, in 2019.
L Brands is currently preparing to split its Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works brands into two standalone companies and expects to complete the separation in August of this year. The move is intended to allow Victoria’s Secret to concentrate on turning its fortunes around, while leaving Bath & Body Works – which continues to significantly outperform the lingerie label – to pursue further growth.
“L Brands is at a terrific place in its history,” said Wexner when commenting on his own departure on Thursday. “We have some of the strongest brand leaders in our history and the businesses are well positioned going into the future. I am more confident than ever that we have very positive momentum as we approach the planned separation into two businesses.”
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