Recently Forbes released a list of all the billionaires in the United States. While some familiar names are at the top of the list, I always like to look for interesting stories that stand out amongst the lucky people on the list to share with readers.
Today it is time to look at the wealthiest person living in Columbus, Ohio- at how he made his vast fortune and also what he is doing in the Columbus community to put his wealth to good use.
The wealthiest person in Columbus
With a net worth of $6.1 billion, which places him at number 440 wealthiest in the world is Les Wexner.
Wexner was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1937. He attended Bexley High School in Columbus before attending Ohio State University, where he graduated in 1959 with a major in business administration.
Wexner's career started in retail, where he worked in his parent's clothing store. While managing the store, he analyzed the profitability of different clothing and saw an opportunity to offer more lower-end items that would sell quickly. When his father disagreed with the strategy, he opened his own store called The Limited on August 10, 1963, in the Kingsdale Shopping Center in a suburb of Columbus.
It was an early success, and Wexner's parents closed their own store to help their son expand his business. Then, after just six years, the company was made public when it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1982 Wexner purchased Victoria's Secret for $ 1 million. Wexner rebranded the catalog and began using models to help sell the product and position it as an exclusive luxury brand. He even listed a fake business address in London even though the headquarters of the company was in Columbus.
Over the years, Wexner has acquired and sold several brands, including Abercrombie and Fitch, Henri Bendel, and Lane Bryant. The Limited has since rebranded to Bath and Body Works, with Victoria's Secret now a separate business.
There was some controversy around Wexner's relationship with disgraced businessmen Jeffrey Epstein. Wexner claimed that Epstein stole funds from him.
When I write these articles, I always get questions from readers asking what these billionaires give back to the community. In the case of Les Wexner, he is involved in a number of charitable organizations in Columbus and the United States.
In total, he has donated nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to institutions in the state.
In 1989, Wexner was the first person to make a $1 million personal donation to the United Way- an organization that "advances the common good in communities across the world."
He has also been a significant donor to educational advancement.
He was a major funder of the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, which was named after Les' father. In 2011, Wexner donated $100 million to Ohio State for the university’s academic Medical Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. The donation was the largest in the university’s history.
Through his businesses, Wexner and L Brands have also contributed $163.4 million to the Columbus Foundation.
Wexner certainly has carved out an impressive business and philanthropic career, and unlike many other billionaires, it was through his own work and not via an inheritance. From working in his parent's retail store to becoming the wealthiest person in Columbus and the entire state of Ohio.
Readers, have any of you worked for Wexner or had any associations with him or his businesses? What was the experience like?
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.