- L Brands founder Les Wexner and his wife Abigail Wexner will not stand for reelection to the company's board at its annual shareholders meeting in May, the company said in an emailed press release Thursday.
- Wexner a year ago stepped down as CEO but remained on the board in an emeritus role.
- Francis Hondal, president of loyalty and engagement at Mastercard, and Danielle Lee, chief fan officer at the National Basketball Association, have been appointed as independent directors. With these changes the L Brands board will have 10 directors, nine who are independent and six who are women, including board chair Sarah Nash.
Wexner's full departure from L Brands is something of a surprise, considering that just a year ago the plan was for him to be on the board as "chairman emeritus."
Then again, he is an octogenarian who more or less ruled retail for six decades. "Seems he’s made the call, 'okay, it’s your turn to run this thing,'" said Lee Peterson, executive vice president of thought leadership and marketing at WD Partners, who worked with Wexner at The Limited during its heyday.
L Brands noted in its release that the majority of its board members, including the chair, are women. It's a demographic that has increasingly turned away from the company's Victoria's Secret brand in recent years. The brand has steadily given up market share as consumers rebelled against its "glamazon" marketing and public perception tagged it as more sexist than sexy.
Comments against transgender models from the company's longstanding marketing chief and Wexner's own personal and financial ties to disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein also didn't help the company's public profile. Wexner has distanced himself from Epstein, whose death two years ago was ruled a suicide, saying their relationship was "a long time ago" and that he was "embarrassed" to have been "taken advantage of by someone who is so sick, so cunning and so depraved."
When Wexner announced his departure as chief executive, the company was set to sell its lingerie business to private equity firm Sycamore Partners, a deal that later fell through as the pandemic roiled the industry. L Brands has since said that it's committed to separating its Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works operations somehow, by selling Victoria's Secret or spinning it into its own publicly traded company. The brand has perked up in recent quarters, however, as fewer markdowns have led to higher margins.