Leslie Wexner: We had a number of arguments back and forth. He’d throw me out of the store and say, “Go home and go find a job.” I’d pout for a week or two and my mom would make peace with my dad. I’d go back to the store and he’d throw me out. As I look back at it, and didn’t see it at the time, it was a classic father-son kind of argument about merit and manhood or value.
I had decided quite subconsciously that I was going to prove to my dad that I had real worth and I could do something, but the only language he understood was the business he was in. So I thought “his business was wrong. I’m going to do one that’s right,” and I invented one in my mind and began playing with it and making sketches of stores and fixtures and thinking about things that I might sell.
I had a spinster aunt, and I don’t think she knew what was going on in terms of what I was imagining. She just knew that my dad and I weren’t getting along and I didn’t have a job. My Aunt Ida said, “I’ve got $5,000,” which was her whole net worth, a spinster aunt. And she said, “I’ll give you the $5,000, but you have to put it in the bank and promise not to spend it. But banks will loan money to people that have money, I think.” And she said, “So if I give you the 5,000, you put it in a savings account and you have to promise never to spend it because that’s all I have.” My parents couldn’t have contributed. They had nil.
So I did, waited a couple of months, and went to the neighborhood bank, and I said, “By the way, I’m thinking about starting a business,” and the loan officer at the branch said, “How much money do you have?” and I said, “Well, I’ve got $5,000 in your bank.” And he said, “Well, what do you want to do?” and I said, “Well, I don’t know, but I’ve got $5,000. Would you make me a loan?” And he says, “If you have 5,000, I’ll loan you ten, but why don’t you come up with an idea?” I said, “Oh.”