In 1989, Mr. Epstein’s mentor, Leslie H. Wexner, the founder and chairman of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, bought the seven-story Beaux-Arts home for $13.2 million. At the time, it was the highest recorded sale price for a townhouse in Manhattan.
Mr. Wexner then spent at least that much on artwork — including multiple works by Picasso — Art Deco furnishings, Russian antiques, rosewood tables and doors and a gut renovation of the home. Security devices, including a network of cameras, were installed. A cellar was divided into separate spaces, one for red wines and another for white. The renovation was featured on the cover of the December 1995 issue of Architectural Digest.
The townhouse had been a longtime private school and Mr. Wexner spent years converting it into a lavish estate.
Mr. Wexner, however, never moved in; he decided to stay in Columbus, Ohio, where L Brands has its headquarters.
But another person did move in: Mr. Epstein. “Les never spent more than two months there,” Mr. Epstein told The New York Times in 1996.
The home has a history of going unoccupied by its owner. Herbert N. Straus, an heir to the Macy’s fortune, commissioned the 40-room mansion in the early 1930s and hired the prominent architect Horace Trumbauer to design it. But Mr. Straus died in 1933, leaving the property unfinished and unoccupied.
The Straus family gave the residence to a hospital in 1944. In 1962, the private school, Birch Wathen School, bought it and converted it into a schoolhouse. The school, which was started in 1921 with an emphasis on the arts, relocated after Mr. Wexner bought the house. (It later merged with another private school to start the Birch Wathen Lenox School.)