Epstein Looms Over Speech by Billionaire Behind Victoria’s Secret

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Of the eight executives scheduled to speak about different parts of the business, including Bath & Body Works, Amy Hauk, chief of the company’s younger Pink brand, was the only woman. It was not the first time that concerns have been raised about the lack of women in the highest ranks of Victoria’s Secret and L Brands. Earlier this year, L Brands added two more women to its board following criticism from an activist investor.

During his presentation, Mr. Mehas said that Victoria’s Secret customers had been “very vocal about what she’d like to see from us, whether it’s inclusivity, whether it’s #MeToo, whether it’s different profile of models, whether it’s rethinking the show and we’re essentially in agreement.”

He added, “The point is it’s a fine line in terms of rethinking the next evolution of the brand and we’re being thoughtful about what that looks like.”

Some analysts expected more specifics. Leslee King, founder of Retail Republik, who was an executive at Victoria’s Secret for more than a decade, called Mr. Mehas’s presentation “uninspired,” adding that she could not discern a new outlook for the brand.

“It’s shocking that there wasn’t a discussion of the consumer and what’s important to her now in the intimate apparel category,” she said. Instead, Ms. King said, his presentation seemed focused on more narrow “fundamentals” of the retail business, like pricing across various stores and associate training.

Ms. Hauk, of Pink, described the brand’s target audience of college-age women in more detail, pointing to their heavy student debt load and desire for clothes they can wear “24/7.” Ms. Hauk said that Pink, which ultimately aims to funnel consumers into the Victoria’s Secret brand, had been closely studying the habits and desires of its Generation Z customers and was pursuing more diversity and authenticity in its marketing.

While analysts and investors had questions about the future of L Brands’ companies, there have also been questions about what lies ahead for Mr. Wexner. The Epstein scandal has spurred speculation around whether Mr. Wexner, the longest-serving chief executive in the S&P 500, may step back from the business or signal a successor.

At the end of the day’s presentations, he aimed to put those concerns to rest.

“The leadership of the business is superb — better than it’s ever been, individually and collectively,” he said. “I think we’ve done everything necessary to prepare to win. Now, we’ve just got to start scoring.”

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