Among them was Robert Meister, then a vice chairman of insurance giant Aon, who counted Wexner as a client. At the time, Wexner seemed much more focused on running his company than expanding his net worth, according to people close to him.

Around 1990, Wexner appointed Epstein as the head of Wexner Investment Co., his de facto family office. The decision effectively demoted Harold Levin, who’d then been in charge of Wexner’s personal finances for seven years, and came as a surprise to several people who worked with the fashion CEO at the time.

Some wondered what Wexner saw in Epstein, whom they described as charismatic but also arrogant and without much formal education in money management.

“It was highly questionable what was going on,” said Robert Morosky, a former vice chairman and chief financial officer of the Limited, L Brands’ precursor.

Daniel Finkelman, a former senior vice president at L Brands, described Wexner as a man of strong moral character with a high sense of integrity.

“You never know until you know, I guess,” Finkelman said in a telephone interview. “You can’t peer into anyone’s marriage, and you can’t peer into anyone’s friendship.”

In 1991, Epstein was granted power-of-attorney over Wexner’s assets. Within a few years, he was also a director of the Wexner Foundation and Wexner Heritage Foundation, and was involved in developing the town of New Albany outside Columbus, Ohio, where Wexner lives.

The pair were so close that Wexner sold his Manhattan townhouse to Epstein in the 1990s. The Boeing 727 used by Epstein to shuttle luminaries like President Bill Clinton on several overseas trips was previously owned by a Wexner company. Epstein even played a role in building Wexner’s super yacht, “Limitless,” attending meetings in the London studios of the boat’s design firm.

Wexner’s letter didn’t specify how much money Epstein is alleged to have misappropriated. How the financier amassed assets worth more than $500 million, a figure cited by federal prosecutors, remains shrouded in mystery.

Wexner Investment Co. invested in several real estate deals during the 1990s. In some cases, Epstein took a cut of the proceeds once the transactions were finalized, a person familiar with the matter said. Epstein also served as trustee of several trusts, foundations and corporations tied to Wexner. Between 1994 and 2002, such entities sold an aggregate $1.5 billion of L Brands stock, regulatory filings show.