With former Abercrombie & Fitch chief executive officer Mike Jeffries under fire for allegedly having been part of an organized ring that exploited men at private sex events he and his partner Matthew Smith hosted, the retailer said Monday it was “appalled and disgusted” and already had initiated an independent investigation.
The BBC revealed the allegations following a two-year investigation that included interviews with 12 men, who were allegedly propositioned, including eight who were said to have attended the events. Some of them claimed that they had been exploited or abused at the gatherings, which were said to have been held at Jeffries’ former home in the Hamptons, at Claridge’s in London, La Mamounia in Morocco and Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the South of France. The events were held between 2009 and 2015, and the men were allegedly recruited by a middleman, James Jacobson. The men allegedly received cash for sexual acts.
Jacobson denied any wrongdoing to the BBC and said the men went into these events “with their eyes wide open.” Jeffries and Smith did not respond to requests for comment from the BBC. Jeffries could not be reached by WWD Monday night.
After turning the preppy label into a multibillion-dollar brand that was associated by many for its ad campaigns with muscular men, Jeffries exited the top job at Abercrombie & Fitch in 2014.
Asked if Abercrombie & Fitch is conducting an investigation, a company spokesperson said an outside law firm had been engaged since being contacted by the BBC. The firm is looking into the issues that have been raised by the BBC. The company’s current executive leadership team and board were not aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Jeffries, according to the spokesperson.
The Abercrombie & Fitch statement also noted, “We are appalled and disgusted by the behavior described in the allegations against Mr. Jeffries, whose employment with Abercrombie & Fitch Co. ended in 2014, nearly 10 years ago. Speaking up and coming forward is not easy, and our thoughts are with those who bravely raised their voices.”
It continued, “For close to a decade, a new executive leadership team and refreshed board of directors have successfully transformed our brands and culture into the values-driven organization we are today. We have zero tolerance for abuse, harassment, or discrimination of any kind.”
According to the BBC, David Bradberry alleged that at the age of 23 he was introduced in 2010 to Jacobson by an agent, who described him as the gatekeeper to “the owners” of A&F, but said there was no mention of sex. Bradberry alleged that at their meeting, Jacobson suggested Bruce Weber — then A&F’s official photographer — should take his picture. “Jim made it clear to me that unless I let him perform oral sex on me, that I would not be meeting with Abercrombie & Fitch or Mike Jeffries,” Bradberry claimed to the BBC.
Bradberry could not be reached for comment Monday night. A spokesman for Weber did not immediately acknowledge a media request Monday night regarding the BBC’s investigation. Former model Barrett Pall alleged that he had been recruited by an older model, who received a referral fee, to be his “replacement” for “some sort of sexual experience” with Jeffries and Smith at a 2011 Hamptons event. That allegedly required “a test run” with Jacobson. Jeffries’ personal staff was said to have worn Abercrombie & Fitch uniforms at these gatherings.
Pall did not respond immediately to a media request Monday night.