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Reports: Wexner, Harvard’s Billionaire Donor, Allowed Culture of Misogyny in Victoria’s Secret

Leslie H. Wexner donated money to Harvard Kennedy School to fund a new building on its campus.
Leslie H. Wexner donated money to Harvard Kennedy School to fund a new building on its campus. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Michelle G. Kurilla and Ruoqi Zhang, Crimson Staff Writers

Major University donor Leslie H. Wexner failed to address inappropriate conduct and a culture of misogyny inside L Brands, the company he runs, a New York Times investigation found earlier this month.

Wexner — whose ties to another Harvard donor, convicted sex offender Jeffrey E. Epstein, came under scrutiny last year — provided the University and some of its affiliate organizations multiple multimillion-dollar donations over the span of several years.

Former employees of Wexner’s company told the Times that it had a persistent misogynistic culture, raising complaints about inappropriate conduct by his deputy, Edward Razek. Executives said employees brought these complaints to Wexner to no avail. Wexner himself was also heard making demeaning comments about women in the workplace, according to the Times.

Wexner did not respond to a request for comment.

Wexner and his wife, Abigail S. Wexner, are the founding benefactors of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. They also sponsor the Wexner Israel Fellowship, which supports up to ten Israeli public service officials to pursue a one-year mid-career public administration degree. Wexner donated more than $42 million to the Kennedy School before 2012, and one of the school’s six main buildings is named for him.

Epstein — a New York financier who died last August while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges — served as Wexner’s financial advisor for decades. He facilitated, but did not contribute money to, a donation from Wexner that funded the construction of Harvard Hillel.

Wexner was one of Epstein’s only known clients. The Wall Street Journal reported last July that Epstein also attempted to participate in the process of selecting models for Victoria’s Secret, the flagship subsidiary company of L Brands.

Another Harvard affiliate — Patricia S. Bellinger ’83, University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s chief of staff — sits on L Brands’ Board of Directors alongside Wexner. As Bacow’s chief of staff, Bellinger oversees activities of the Office of the President, assists with key University initiatives, and helps promote Bacow’s agenda. Bellinger previously served as a senior fellow at the Center for Public Leadership.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment on Bellinger’s behalf, directing the request to L Brands spokesperson Tammy R. Myers. Myers did not respond to a request for comment.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at michelle.kurilla@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter@MichelleKurilla.

—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at ruoqi.zhang@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.

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