Leslie Wexner steps down as L Brands CEO

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH/AP) — L Brands announced Thursday that Leslie Wexner is stepping down as CEO.

A release from the company stated that Wexner was stepping down as the Victoria’s Secret brand is being sold to Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm specializing in consumer and retail investments. Additionally, Bath and Body Works will become a separate public company. 

Sycamore will purchase a 55% interest in Victoria’s  Secret for approximately $525 million.

“We believe the separation of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and PINK into a privately held company provides the best path to restoring these businesses to their historic levels of profitability and growth. Sycamore, which has deep experience in the retail industry and a superior track record of success, will bring a fresh perspective and greater focus to the business. We believe that, as a private company, Victoria’s Secret will be better able to focus on longer-term results. We are pleased that, by retaining a significant ownership stake, our shareholders will have the ability to meaningfully participate in the upside potential of these iconic brands,” Wexner stated in the release.

Tristan Navera, a reporter at Columbus Business First, says Sycamore has a long history of successfully turning around struggling brands but that it can be painful. “Typically they introduce, very quickly, some big upper-level changes,” Navera said. “That might mean job cuts. It might mean some store closings.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in late January, that L Brands was considering strategic options for Victoria’s Secret that could include a full or partial sale of the lingerie business, citing people familiar with the matter.  

The reported talks came as Victoria’s Secret’s overtly sexy style has clashed with a new attitude from young women who want more inclusive fits. And it’s facing increasing competition from lingerie online natives like Adore Me and ThirdLove, which use more diverse models and offer more comfortable styles. While Victoria’s Secret has made some moves to change its marketing, the efforts haven’t been enough to stop sales declines. During the holiday season, Victoria’s Secret suffered a 12% drop in same-store sales. 

Randal Konik of Jefferies said in an analyst note that he agreed that a “fresh perspective would likely be a positive in ‘righting the ship,’” but that there’s still significant challenges ahead for Victoria’s Secret, including increased competition and the brand relying heavily on promotions. 

“I don’t think anyone thinks that this brand is going to disappear,” Naverra said.  “The brand still carries a lot of value.”

Billionaire Leslie Wexner is the longest-serving CEO of an S&P 500 company, having served as CEO for more than five decades. He founded what would eventually become L Brands in 1963 with one The Limited retail store, according to the company’s website. Wexner owns approximately 16.71% of L Brands, according to FactSet. 

Last year Wexner accused Jeffrey Epstein of misappropriating “vast sums” of his fortune while managing his personal finances more than a decade ago.

To read the full press release click here.

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