We all know that the biggest American Jewish communities are established in New York city, California, Florida, New Jersey and Illinois, where they have great businesses and working opportunities, but there are other regions with great Jewish communities who are creating a lot of good things for the city they are and for America.
Currently, one of the most important cities in the American Midwest for Jews is Illinois, Chicago, which has the fifth larger Jewish community in the United States. For decades, Illinois has been the crib for a lot of very successful Jewish businessmen, like Sam Zell, who has a giant real estate empire, better known as the Equity Group Investments, or Jay Pritzker and his family, who are the owners of the Hyatt hotels and other huge corporations. But there are other Midwest cities with notable Jews, who have created a giant and great companies, like Les Wexner, a great businessman from Ohio and the founder of L Brands.
Related: A Jewish man from Chicago who built a real estate empire System by Yosef Meystel
Leslie Wexner and The Limited Store
He was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1937. Les is the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, which started to arriving in Ohio more than 100 years ago. He studied administration at The Ohio State University and after his graduation, he worked in a family store. At his 26, he started his own company, called The Limited, which was focused only on young women fashion. Three years later, this company was listed on the NYSE and opened other six stores in the city. For 1974, The Limited had more than 40 stores around the country.
After the huge success with The Limited, Les continued with his expansion, opening and buying different clothing business. In 1980, he bought a little store called Express Line, which was founded by Roy Raymon. For that time, Express Line was a little business with six branches, selling women’s lingerie, but after Wexner purchased it, Express Line was renamed to Victoria´s Secret.
Besides Victoria’s Secret, Wexner purchased and founded different clothing companies, like Abercrombie and Fitch, Lane Bryant, Lerner New York, Aura Science, among other fashion businesses. Moreover, he founded other companies like Pink, Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel and La Senza. Having all these brands and stores, Wexner founded L Brands.
After the purchasing of Express Line, which has six little stores in Ohio, for $1 million dollars, Wexner increased this business under the name of Victoria’s Secret, transforming it in the most important and recognized feminine lingerie brand in the world. Today, Victoria’s Secret has incomes for more than $4 billion dollars per year and more than 1.000 stores around the world.
Currently, Victoria’s Secret has some of the greatest supermodels in the world, like Alessandra Ambrosio, Lily Aldridge, Maria Borges, Izabel Goulart, Elsa Hosk, among others recognized models. In 1995, the company launched the annually Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, bringing together the most significant models around the planet. Presently, this show is considered one of the most important events in the fashion industry.
L Brands restructuration
In 1993, L Brands was having a critical economic crisis, due to fall in women clothing sales, so Wexner restructured the company’s strategy. Since 1998, Wexner started closing a lot of his stores and sold some of his most important brands, like Lerner New York, Aura Science, or Henri Bendel, keeping only Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works and La Senza, which are more than 40% of the incomes in L Brands. Currently, this company has more than 3.000 stores around the world and sales for more than $11 billion dollars.
Wexner is not only a great businessman from the Midwest but also a significant philanthropist. In 1989, he donated $1 million dollars to United Way, a nonprofit organization that helps multiple communities around America. In 1984, he founded the Wexner Foundation which is an organization that gives support to Jewish needs both in the United States and Israel.
Leslie also made a significant donation to the University’s academic Medical Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, for more than $100 million dollars in 2011. Through the L Brands Foundation, Wexner made a donation for more than $160 million dollars to the Columbus Foundation in Ohio.
In addition, Wexner has multiple honors and distinctions like the name changing of the Ohio State University Medical Center to the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University. He has been also honored by the Hofstra University, the Brandeis University, the Jewish Theological Institute, the National Retail Federation and by the Woodrow Wilson del Smithsonian Institution.
The actions of Les Wexner are a great contribution to the American Midwest region, not only for his businesses and economic contributions but also for his philanthropic programs, which have helped people from Ohio, the Midwest, the United States, Israel and other countries worldwide.