Ohio State University is reviewing donations it received from Jeffrey Epstein and affiliated entities, including $2.5 million contributed in May 2007 just four months before Epstein was indicted on federal charges in a child sex case.
“In light of recent news surrounding Jeffrey Epstein, Ohio State initiated a review of gifts and donations. Preliminary findings show that the university has received one gift from Epstein and one gift from an affiliated foundation,” the university said in a statement released Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Epstein pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges that accuse him of recruiting and abusing dozens of underage girls at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 2000s. In June 2008, he pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution and served 13 months in jail.
In its review, OSU found that in 1990, Epstein donated $1,000 to the Wexner Center for the Arts Membership Fund and on May 22, 2007, the COUQ Foundation anonymously donated $2.5 million to support the Woody Hayes Athletics Center with the right to name the football center to honor an individual of the donor’s choosing. On June 4, 2007, the Leslie H. Wexner Charitable Fund gave $2.5 million.
“Together, those gifts were applied to the naming of the Les Wexner Football Complex,” the university statement said. The Columbus Dispatch wrote in 2007 that Abigail Wexner made the $5 million donation in honor of her husband’s 70th birthday.
The Wexner name is big at Ohio State: it’s on the arts center, the medical center and the football complex. Between Les and Abigail Wexner, the couple have served more than 20 years on the OSU board of trustees and raised or pledged more than $200 million. Les Wexner, who chairman of L Brands, is ranked by Forbes as the richest man in Ohio.
Wexner and Epstein had longstanding business, charity and real estate ties.
Epstein served as Wexner’s personal money manager from the late ’80s to 2008, the two co-owned a 21,000 square foot Manhattan mansion for more than a decade and early 2008 he donated $46 million to a foundation linked to Wexner’s wife.
Wexner replaced Espstein in February 2008 with another money manager.
In a message to L Brand employees, Wexner said that he severed ties with Esptein more than 12 years ago and that he was never aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment of Epstein.
Ohio State said in its statement: “Epstein is a convicted sex offender whose crimes are reprehensible, and his association with these gifts to the university is concerning. Ohio State is conducting a complete review of the giving history to the university by Epstein and known associated entities and will take additional action as appropriate.”
The review comes at the same time that the university is facing multiple lawsuits over Dr. Richard Strauss’ alleged sex abuse of at least 177 male students.
Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.
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