As more shoppers moved to eCommerce, L Brands CEO Les Wexner wagered on opening more brick-and-mortar locations. Wexner has staunchly supported malls and believes that shoppers’ fixation with phones will subside. But on Thursday (Feb. 20), The Wall Street Journal reported that Wexner plans to sell a controlling stake in Victoria’s Secret and will step down from his roles as chairman and chief executive of L Brands.
Wexner had a strong hand in Victoria’s Secret’s operations, even into his seventies. He worked to take direct oversight of the business a few years ago, driving out the unit’s CEO, taking away the brand’s catalog and cutting its swimwear business. However, sales started to slump, and efforts to bring the business back to life didn’t result in a turnaround.
Wexner began with a loan of $5,000 from a relative and one location. As the reportedly longest-serving chief executive of an S&P 500 firm, he created a worldwide retailing domain that was at one point valued at $29 billion.
Wexner transformed Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch and The Limited into national chains. Victoria’s Secret, which Wexner acquired in 1982, was said to be one of his largest successes. From its beginnings as a catalog with a few locations, it grew to control the lingerie market, bringing in $7 billion in yearly sales.
According to the news of the sale, Wexner will sell a 55 percent stake in the company to Sycamore Partners for $525 million.
In January, news surfaced that was Wexner was in discussions to leave his position as head of his retail empire. He would be departing the role following a challenging time for the company that he has run for almost 60 years. At the time, it was reported that the executive could stay in his chairman role, per an unnamed source, and a complete or partial sale of Victoria’s was under discussion.