Abercrombie & Fitch says it is investigating allegations that ex-CEO Mike Jeffries, who led the company for more than 20 years and defined its modern image, exploited men at sex parties he hosted.
BBC News reported on Monday that 12 men described attending or organizing events that included sex acts for Jeffries and his partner Matthew Smith. Some of those men said they were exploited or didn’t participate willingly. Those events allegedly took place between 2009 and 2015.
Two of the men the BBC spoke to disclosed their identities on-the-record, and the BBC said it confirmed key points of their stories by fact-checking emails, flight tickets, and other documents as well as interviewing dozens of other sources.
It was not clear if any of the men had filed police reports.
The BBC also reported that in the months before Jeffries left the company, a pension fund that had invested in Abercrombie & Fitch initiated a legal claim that the company had paid out settlements after allegations of “misconduct” by Jeffries.
Brian Bieber, Jeffries’ attorney, told NBC News that Jeffries would not comment on reports about his personal life. Smith did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statementemailed to NBC News, a spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch said the company was “appalled and disgusted” by the allegations. It said its current leadership and board were not aware of the allegations against Jeffries, and that it has engaged an outside law firm to investigate the issues raised by the BBC’s reporting.
Jeffries was CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch from 1992 to 2014. When he was hired, the company had recently emerged from bankruptcy and had a stodgy image. During his tenure, it became a much-imitated retailer that defined how younger people looked and dressed.
It was also frequently criticized and repeatedly boycotted for sexualized ads and messages on its clothes.
Later in Jeffries’ tenure, the company fell behind rivals and newer fast fashion competitors. Its financial results also began to weaken, which hurt the company’s stock. Jeffries lost his title as chairman following pressure from investors, and then left the company altogether.
Most of Abercrombie & Fitch’s current management and board of directors joined after Jeffries left the company, although Fran Horowitz, who has been CEO since February 2017, was president of A&F’s Hollister brand for the last two months of Jeffries’ tenure.
Marley Jay is a business news reporter for NBC News Digital.