Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Mogul And The Monster: Inside Jeffrey Epstein's Decades-Long Relationship With His Biggest Client


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In the fall of 1982, a money manager named Harold Levin got a phone call that would change his life. A lawyer representing Leslie H. Wexner, the founder and CEO of the women’s apparel retailer The Limited, said Wexner was looking for a financial adviser. Would Levin be interested? Levin most certainly was. In Columbus, Ohio, where Levin lived, Wexner was a legend. Wexner grew The Limited from a single Columbus store into a global retail empire that included mall fixtures Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, and Bath & Body Works.

Levin landed the job after six months of grueling interviews. He wasn’t making Masters of the Universe money—Wexner paid a salary of $250,000 a year—but it was enough for Levin to move his family into a 6,000-square-foot house across the street from Wexner in Bexley, Columbus’s most exclusive suburb. By 1986, Wexner ranked sixth on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, with a net worth estimated at $1.4 billion. “In New York, I had bankers constantly taking me out to dinner,” Levin told me. Once, the manager of the Regency Hotel arranged a private tour of Le Bernardin. “The kitchen was so clean, you could eat off the floor,” Levin remembered. Wexner entrusted Levin with increasingly ambitious projects. Starting in the mid-1980s, Levin purchased thousands of acres of farmland in New Albany (population 414) on the outskirts of Columbus, where Wexner planned to build his very own town modeled on an 18th-century Georgian village. “Les sent me to Richmond, Virginia, to look at architecture he wanted to copy,” Levin said.

On one of Levin’s trips to New York in 1989, Wexner asked him to meet a brilliant young financier who wanted to pitch an investment opportunity.

Levin had never heard of the man, Jeffrey Epstein, which was odd. After working for Wexner for seven years, Levin knew virtually every player on Wall Street (a few months earlier, Levin says, he met with arbitrageur Ivan Boesky). Levin’s skepticism was confirmed as soon as he arrived at Epstein’s Madison Avenue office. There were no visible signs of a trading operation; just Epstein sitting behind a desk that didn’t even have a computer. “Epstein was trying to explain a currency trade he wanted to do. I have an MBA from Ohio State, and I didn’t understand a word the man said,” Levin recalled. Levin went back to Columbus and reported that Epstein was a fraud. “I told Les, ‘Stay away from him,’ ” Levin remembered. Wexner agreed not to do the trade.

Levin was shocked when Epstein showed up in Columbus a few months later and announced Wexner had put him in charge of his finances. Levin tried to protest but says Wexner wouldn’t take his calls. Levin couldn’t stand having Epstein as a boss. “He was an asshole. The most arrogant person I ever met,” Levin recalled. A few months later, Levin quit.  (more...)

The Mogul And The Monster: Inside Jeffrey Epstein's Decades-Long Relationship With His Biggest Client

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