Leslie H. Wexner, the Ohio billionaire who was once one of the world’s most important art collectors, made his fortune in the mall by turning ailing brands into hugely successful giants like Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret, and others like Limited and Bath & Body is working. But since 2019, when Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of child sex trafficking in Florida and New York and previously Wexner’s money manager, the mall mogul’s reputation and fortune have been in decline.
Wexner’s relationship with Epstein is now being explored in a new three-part documentary series on Hulu titled ” Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons, which became available to stream on Thursday. Directed by Matt Tyrnauer, who previously enjoyed exploring fashion and sex scandals in series Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008) and Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (2017), the tantalizing new documentary, chronicles Wexner’s rise and fall and is the latest documentary to do so since it was released on Netflix White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch earlier this year.
Corresponding angels and demons, Epstein was known to tie himself to older, wealthier men to secure money and power. Wexner was one of those men, after all, entangled deeply with Epstein, going so far as to make Epstein his financial manager and later give him power of attorney.
That struck many in his circle, like former Victoria’s Secret CEO Cindy Fedus-Fields, as atypical, given Wexner was a well-known micromanager and Epstein was a college dropout who mysteriously landed a job at Bear after a stint Stearns as a mathematics teacher at the renowned New York private school Dalton. Epstein, who served as Wexner’s finance manager from the ’80s until 2007, used his connection to Wexner’s companies, particularly Victoria’s Secret, to propose to women.
angels and demons focuses on a specific case. In 1997, actress Alicia Arden filed a police report after Epstein posed as a Victoria’s Secret recruiter. Epstein had invited Arden to audition for him in his hotel room, where he proceeded to allege Arden sexually assaulted her.
At the time, senior Victoria’s Secret executives complained to Wexner that Epstein had posed as a Victoria’s Secret talent scout to gain access to young women. Although Wexner promised to speak to Epstein about this behavior, he was either unwilling or unable to get him to stop it, and the two maintained a close financial relationship for another decade.
Although the show is promoted as an in-depth look at Wexner and Epstein’s relationship, the series never really gets to the bottom of exactly why Wexner gave Epstein such unprecedented power and access to his wealth, paying him over $400 million over the years.
“That remains a big question mark,” Tyrnauer admitted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in this week. “Despite the efforts of many great journalists, including Sarah Ellison, who stars in the film, and writers of vanity fair and the New York Timesit really remains a mystery.” (Wexner declined to be interviewed for angels and demons.)
Instead, the documentary focuses on the incredibly interesting, but perhaps underwhelming, story of the rise of the Victoria’s Secret empire and how it shaped the fast fashion industry and America’s understanding of sexy.
As a collector, Wexner didn’t focus on a specific era or artist, but bought a little of everything. He began his collection in 1978 with Willem de Kooning’s pink woman (ca. 1944) and later bought works by Picasso, Giacometti and Jean Dubuffet. His collection was exhibited in 2014 at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, of which he was the main donor and which is named after his father.
Although at one point he amassed one of the finest art collections in the country, angels and demons does not cover this either. That’s perhaps a blatant omission considering Epstein was also deeply entrenched in the art world.
From 1987 to 1994, Epstein was a board member of the New York Academy of Art and a noted contributor to MIT’s Media Lab. He had close ties to art dealer Leah Kleman, whose contact information is recorded in Epstein’s “little black book,” which included the names of dozens of high-profile individuals, some of whom have denied knowing Epstein, the authorities said New York Times.
Another important connection was the well-known collector Leon Black, who is a long-time trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. According to that New York PostBlack allegedly tapped Epstein to run the Leon Black Family Foundation even after Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges in 2008. The foundation has since denied they had anything to do with Epstein after 2007, citing his inclusion in the post-2007 paperwork as a clerical error.
In a 2020 statement, Black said: “Knowing everything I’ve learned about Epstein’s reprehensible and despicable behavior over the past two years, I deeply regret having engaged with him. In hindsight, working with him was a terrible mistake on my part.”