(L-R) Les Wexner and Ed Razek. Getty Images.
Leslie Wexner sold $327 million worth of shares of L Brands Inc. last week, according to a Monday filing, bringing his total stock sales in the beauty and apparel group he founded to $500 million this year.
The moves come weeks after Wexner, 85, and his wife, Abigail, announced plans to step down from the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer’s board following Wexner’s retirement as chief executive officer last year.
He’s one of a growing number of billionaire insiders who’ve been selling large tranches of stock this year. Members of the Walton family offloaded more than $1.2 billion of Walmart Inc. shares in recent weeks, while Jeff Bezos cashed in $6.7 billion of Amazon.com Inc. stock. Blackstone Group Inc. executive Tony James sold stock in May worth more than $250 million, his largest annual disposal since at least 2013.
US public company insiders offloaded shares worth $29.4 billion this year through May, with about half sold through trading plans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Large shareholders frequently sell stock in planned intervals, yet the prolonged rally in equities markets has made the value of these sales, whether planned or opportunistic, particularly large.
Wexner may be capitalising on L Brands’ rebounding price. Stock in the company’s, which includes Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, has soared more than 600 percent since hitting a five-year low in March 2020 as the retailer sought to shore up its underwear and bath products businesses in the wake of the pandemic.
Wexner has periodically sold tranches of stock in past years, usually amounting to between $100 million and $200 million annually, reducing the value of his L Brands holdings relative to his overall fortune. His stake in the firm now makes up about a quarter of his $9.7 billion net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
A spokesperson for L Brands didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The divestments come at a delicate time for the billionaire, whose name frequently surfaces in connection to pedophile con-man Jeffrey Epstein, the subject of a Vanity Fair article published Tuesday. In a 2003 interview, Epstein suggested he bought and sold stock on behalf of Wexner, whom he met in the mid ’80s. Epstein died of an apparent suicide in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial for sex crimes.
By Ben Stupples and Devon Pendleton