Victoria’s Secret Executive Leaves as Company Distances Itself From Epstein


L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, is losing its longtime chief marketing officer Ed Razek, a departure that adds to the turbulence at the once-dominant lingerie company.

Mr. Razek is retiring, according to a note sent to employees by Leslie H. Wexner, the company’s chief executive.

Victoria’s Secret — which for years defined female sexiness for many Americans — is struggling to reinvent itself in the #MeToo era. The company recently hired its first openly transgender lingerie model, Valentina Sampaio, 22, for a photo shoot. The Brazilian model’s agent, Erio Zanon, said that Ms. Sampaio would appear in marketing for VS Pink, the company’s athletic line.

The marketing executive made headlines last year when he said in an interview with Vogue that Victoria’s Secret should not cast “transsexuals” in its fashion show “because the show is a fantasy.” Mr. Razek later apologized for his “insensitive” remarks.

The departure also comes as L Brands rushes to distance itself from the scandal involving Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested last month and charged with sex trafficking involving girls as young as 14. For many years, Mr. Epstein was a close personal adviser to Mr. Wexner.

The Times reported last month that L Brands executives in the mid-1990s had learned that Mr. Epstein was trying to pitch himself as a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret models. They said Mr. Wexner was warned. Around the same time, a model said, Mr. Epstein lured her to his hotel room under the pretense of being a Victoria’s Secret talent scout and then attacked her.

L Brands has said it hired outside lawyers to “to conduct a thorough review” into the relationship between Mr. Wexner and Mr. Epstein.

In his note to employees on Monday, which was reviewed by The New York Times, Mr. Wexner said that “there are few with Ed’s passion and talent in this industry.” Mr. Razek’s duties will be temporarily filled by Ed Wolf, the company’s senior vice president of brand and creative, along with Bob Campbell, the vice president of creative for Victoria’s Secret.

Mr. Razek’s retirement was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

After joining the company in 1983, Mr. Razek has been key to developing the company’s heavily sexualized lingerie campaigns and its annual fashion show extravaganza. But as retailers and media groups such as American Eagle Outfitters and Playboy began to shift away from overt displays of skin toward marketing that focused on body positivity, Victoria’s Secret grew disconnected from the cultural zeitgeist.

In May, after nearly two decades of star-studded events, Mr. Wexner said that the fashion show would no longer air on network television. Last week, the model Shanina Shaik told The Daily Telegraph that this year’s show was canceled entirely.

James A. Mitarotonda, who heads the activist investor Barington Capital Group, sent a letter in March to Mr. Wexner complaining about L Brands’ poor performance. Mr. Mitarotonda wrote that Victoria’s Secret needed to employ “a more inclusive marketing message” and that Mr. Razek “has done a poor job of stewarding Victoria’s Secret’s brand by failing to communicate a compelling, up-to-date image that resonates with today’s consumers.”

Mr. Razek wrote in a separate note on Monday that he had informed Mr. Wexner a few weeks ago of his desire to retire.

“It was a tough conversation to have because, as some of you must know, we have shared so much together for so many years,” he wrote in the note, which he titled “So long partners” and which Mr. Wexner shared with employees.

“Still,” he wrote, “it’s time.”