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Though Victoria’s Secret haswas the definitive lingerie store for many women over decades, an investigation has uncovered that the two men who presided over the company spearheaded a culture of misogyny, bullying, and harassment.
The New York Times confirmed this through interviews with over 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors, and models, as well as court filings and other documents.
Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret parent company, L Brands, was the reason for continuous complaints of misconduct. He tried to kiss models, have them sit on his lap, and even touched one’s crotch before the 2018 Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Executives said they informed Leslie Wexner—the billionaire founder and chief executive of L Brands—about Razek’s behavior. Some women who complained faced retribution.
“What was most alarming to me, as someone who was always raised as an independent woman, was just how ingrained this behavior was,” Casey Crowe Taylor, a former public relations employee at Victoria’s Secret, told the Times. She had witnessed Mr. Razek’s conduct. “This abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal. It was almost like brainwashing. And anyone who tried to do anything about it wasn’t just ignored. They were punished.”
The interviews with the models and employees furthered the idea that the company was in trouble, especially after Wexner’s ties to financier and sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein became public. Epstein managed Wexner’s fortune, sometimes baiting women by pretending to be a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret models. Epstein allegedly committed suicide in jail last August while facing federal sex-trafficking charges.
The company has been going through some changes. Victoria’s Secret has been closing stores. Shares of L Brands have declined more than 75 percent from their 2015 peak. The annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show has also been canceled after almost 20 years on network TV. Razek resigned from his position with L Brands last August—and Wexner is looking to retire and sell the lingerie company.
In a statement, Tammy Roberts Myers, a spokeswoman for L Brands, told the Times that the company “is intensely focused” on corporate governance, workplace, and compliance practices and that it had “made significant strides.”
“We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability,” she said. The statement didn’t refute the Times’ reporting.
Mr. Razek said in an email: “The accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context. I’ve been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other.” He refused to address a detailed list of allegations.