Why the Founder of Victoria’s Secret Threw Himself off a Bridge

Filed under: Industry,Money Makers,This and That |

The Victoria’s Secret show costs more than $10 million to put on and is hailed as one of the most important fashion shows in the world.  What is not so known about the company is the tragic story of its founder, Roy Raymond.  Raymond started the company after being influenced by a shopping trip he’d just taken with his wife.

The saddest part about Raymond’s life is that he killed himself after not being able to participate fully in the potential of his company.   Raymond opened the first Victoria’s Secret shop in Northern California in 1977.  They named the company after the Victorian period during which their home was built.

“Our original idea was to have a store where men felt comfortable shopping for lingerie. It all began when Roy went shopping for me, and felt out of place in a lingerie store. Victoria’s Secret tried to change that,” says Gaye, Roy’s wife.   Gaye is now a 65-year old professor at Samuel Merritt University.

The couple had five shops by 1982, and then made the horrible mistake of selling the company for $5 million to Leslie Wexner, founder of The Limited.

“My husband Roy had spoken to Les Wexner a few times about working together, but ultimately Roy felt he couldn’t share decision-making, and was happier getting out completely,” says Gaye.

Of course, the selling price was just a fraction of what the company is worth today.  According to most recent estimates, the company’s value now exceeds $13 billion, making it a huge score for Wexner and company.

Roy went on to try other projects, like a store called “My Child’s Destiny,” which sold children’s products.  The company went bankrupt in 1986.  He’d invested nearly a million dollars of his own money in the business and was made personally liable for all of its debts after never getting it incorporated.  He then split with his wife shortly after losing everything.

Roy and Gaye divorced in 1993 when Victoria’s Secret was flying high as the largest retailer in the United States.  Roy tried other projects, but could never get anything going.

“He went through a couple of business failures and I think he suffered depression,” says Gaye. “He borrowed a lot of money from his mother. He was trying to start another company but things didn’t go well, and he saw only one way out.”

“It’s so sad, because he was young, creative, really a brilliant businessman, but he suffered setbacks and couldn’t seem to bounce back from them. He felt he couldn’t go on,” she said.

At the age of 46, Raymond killed himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Raymond’s experience serves as a cautionary tale about seeing the potential of your business idea and not letting others see it for you.  If you build something this strong, at least hold a percentage of ownership and don’t cut yourself out completely.  Raymond’s biggest mistake was that he never held equity in the company he founded, which led to his economic demise.



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48 Responses to Why the Founder of Victoria’s Secret Threw Himself off a Bridge

  1. Certainly not a hater but this story sounds like a rash of repeated bad business decisions. Rest in peace, my brother.

    July 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm

  2. I love the last paragraph. So important. Thanks for spreading the message!

    July 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

  3. Was he a Black man? It is relevant, and would have been instructive if this question was answered in the article. Too many things like this have happened to the Black population, where many see their ideas making billions and they can’t touch it. Some of them can’t even get a job as a janitor in the companies they started, or the companies that were started with their ideas. Wise up Black people, and be not too quick to sell your ideas and businesses for a little cash dangling before you. Is there any truth to the story that Kentucky Fried Chicken was started by a Black man?

    Warren Johnson
    July 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    • His color does not matter. What matters is people learning that something worth having isn’t going to come easy.

      October 15, 2012 at 2:25 am

      • Color is of no importance. This is a human family story. Apparently this man didn’t have the correct guidance in terms of his selling the company. He never got over this huge loss. You know, lawyers are good for something.R.I.P Raymond.

        PAT TAYLOR
        November 28, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      • Black is not a “color” in this context, its a life, a history, a way of thinking, an experience. Do not discount “Black” thinking its about skin color when it influences the direction of our conversations very much. It gives us perspective on suicide in our community, as opposed to other communities etc. It will always be relevant if used intelligently.

        February 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    • Roy Raymond was white; however, Famous Amos cookies were founded by a black man, Wally Amos. His story is very similar. Mr. Amos is now a advocate for Literacy.

      Jah Larry Dread
      February 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    • Shut up! Black people this and black people that. JUST SHUT UP!!!
      So sick of BLACK whiny BULLS**T!!!!! I, as an average white man, am the SLAVE!!! I bust my ass to survive, pay all these taxes and get NONE of the benefits that BLACKS are eligible for!!! SHUT UP BLACK PEOPLE!!

      December 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      • Sir, you are a slave by choice. A slave to money, like many white people. Are you receiving mental and physical beatings for that? Maybe. I don’t know your story, and I don’t care. Slaves were beaten and physically and emotionally abused for the color of their skin and for not submitting to people like you. Sounds like you have a personality disorder. Look up antisocial personality disorder. You have no remorse or guilt for what you have said. Get yourself checked out, then maybe you won’t be a slave…

        December 18, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    • For your info it was a white man not black do your research before you give niggas a speech

      Don Vito
      January 18, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    • We have some black racist over here! :)

      Mr Poland
      January 20, 2014 at 12:45 am

    • Didn’t know that Harland Sanders was black loooooooooool

      January 20, 2014 at 12:47 am

  4. Worked for Wexner over 15 years had no idea of this man. That was a deep secret until now…………………..WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ms. Monica
    July 18, 2012 at 11:59 am

  5. Sad.

    July 20, 2012 at 6:57 am

  6. This is a sad story, all that talent and if he had just held on, or had a support team to help him succeed, or at least God in his life. This brilliant talent who not have gone to waste.

    Some times GOD puts in the land of wilderness to get our attention, have us clear our head, change directions, listen to reason. WOW I wonder if he had a great vision for Victory Secret, what other great idea’s could he had come up with.


    July 29, 2012 at 3:33 am

  7. That was a 5 million dollar mistake I could live with now! his is no the biggest mistake when it comes to entrepreneurs that sell of interest in a business they have founded. I believe Cisco is one.

    August 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm

  8. Thanks for telling this story.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:46 am

  9. Pingback: Nicole Kidman Uses the N-Word in Her New Movie, More Black News | Your Black World

  10. I really appreciate that you put in that last paragraph. This is a sad story but hopefully that will help someone in the future. Someone mentioned in the comments about being in the wilderness. I think we can learn from this lesson to keep our eyes focused on the bigger picture, on the land of milk and honey and not just settle for the manna since He told us what is to come. Don’t get me wrong, the manna was great, but HE said where they were going was better than where they were.

    It is tragic that he could not recoup from this and I pray that his loved ones find peace beyond understanding when they truly search for it.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:29 pm


    October 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

  12. It sounds like he made a bad business deal. He could have stayed involved and decided not to. A mistake a lot of small business owners make is selling to soon, this isn’t exclusive to the black community.

    October 15, 2012 at 1:50 am

  13. Very scary, very sad.

    October 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm

  14. This speaks volumes. When someone is working hard on their business and gives it up, they need to realize that this could happen. If no one is laughing at your dreams they are nor big enough!
    I have been working on mine for over six years and am finally putting it forward , in remained in control and patient and have been studying and growing. I know someone will say I am lucky, but they will never realize the hours and trade offs behind the scenes-
    I realized how people can be when a guy told me that every one was not as lucky as me to make it. I’m like what do you mean lucky. I am the 16th child of my parents who did not have a grade school education from the prejudice south. I grew up poor, mother died about tree weeks before I graduated high school.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm

  15. This is not a sad story…this is a problem that has gone on for years amongst all people in this country and it is LEGAL…

    The problem is that most people are talented and have someting to share…their problem is that when it is time to read and sign their contracts, they make the wrong decision…

    1) Never hire anyone to read or to interpret a contract for you…you can seek a second opinion to compare with yours, to see what others has to say…

    2) Read the contract over and over until you have scrutinized every word of the contract to ensure that you know what you are getting into…

    3) Never trust anyone when it comes to BIG money, your contract and your life…

    Michale Jackson had the same problem with his last contract…he thought he had signed a contract that would pay him one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000.00) to perform ten shows or concerts…instead, the contract read that he would have to perform fifty (50) shows or concerts, knowing dam well that would be impossible…this leads me to believe that he was rushed into signing his contract or the contract was switched and his signature was forged…

    The best way to learn how to read and to interpret contracts is to study Accounting…

    This man accepted a deal he later regretted because of his ignorance…he did not have to sell the company for five million dollars ($5,000,000.00), he could have rejected the offer and made a counter offer; but the money was too much to turn down…and he apparently mis-managed his money…

    PB Short
    November 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm

  16. The sad thing is that he did not incorporate the business that took him under. A corporation could have protected him against the liability issues. the 5 million would be looked at as a wise decision if the company had gone south. he did not seem to be a person that used legal advice and had a fool for a client. A sad story for anyone regardless of race.

    Robert riley
    November 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm

  17. Sad. He didn’t believe in himself.

    November 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm

  18. When “success” becomes a destination in our thinking, instead of a daily process or journey, the burden of disappointment can overwhelm our fragile lives. We are all just sheep gone astray, but still sheep nonetheless. I teach my boys that they are successful as soon as they wake up. They choose to be okay with the world before the world begins to dictate who they are and when they are a success.

    February 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm


    March 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm

  20. The golden gate bridge tho thts a long ass way down shyt mustve been serious cray cray

    Trevin Ward
    May 22, 2013 at 5:09 am

  21. We, himself go so easily unless it was done to stop a threat against his who knows.at ll it is a crime on the public to just be so hoeish for a companion. adam and eve did not need all that shit. but that is money making. but what do you do to stop a homicide suicide?

    May 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm

  22. I would like to give a shot out to my dream last night for allowing me to take that hit but you turned and allowed me to be the last one with Even got me in trouble in my sleep . it does not worry to much as long a good looking man is in the room gee. but as usual you keep me out of sight. peace. Wegmans hot tea and vodka. I think I am high.

    May 26, 2013 at 7:07 pm

  23. Why do pple tink suicide is a way out…it’s just a shame.if u do believe in urself,no matter d challenges/failure…u shud be optimisitc that everytin will be alright.SUICIDE aint an option!

    June 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm

  24. money

    Willie Amos
    July 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm

  25. everybody is looking out for their own best interest

    August 21, 2013 at 6:14 pm

  26. Race is not an issue here. get over yourself. I mean yea the guy made a bad decision and didn’t have to kill himself over it but we weren’t in his shoes it could’ve just been the last straw that made him go over the edge. but this would’ve been equally sad if it were a black person. but you have to write about it for people to see and care and comment on it like they’ve done here. so go ahead and write about a black person that committed suicide. we’re not saying it’s sad because he’s white. we’re saying it’s sad because he killed himself. people like you are why racism still exists.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm

  27. Low self-esteem together with a combination of unresolved issues.

    November 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm

  28. BJ Culpepper earned the Award for the “Dumbest Comment of The Day”! That’s one of the reasons I got off of Facebook. Too many numbskulls with not enough sense and no clue with too much to say!

    Chris Belton
    February 1, 2014 at 1:15 am

  29. On second thought maybe I gave that award out too soon because I’ve read some really ignorant and stupid comments… Oh and color and race have nothing to do with this story. Mental illness is colorblind.

    Chris Belton
    February 1, 2014 at 1:26 am

  30. It is easy for people to say that don’t see or understand why someone would kill themselves….so you have never felt like that ok that’s you. Don’t compare what you have been through to others you don’t know what was going through that man’s mind. God gives you peace of mind and he clearly didn’t have any so killing himself was his way out he thought. Seek God people Jesus is coming back soon!

    K. Parker
    April 14, 2014 at 1:28 am

  31. In a word: SELFISH.
    I don’t know if this is taught in mainstream churches but it should be: We have not right to be negative. Very selfish action for what Mr. Raymond did, especially when there are children involved. The take home message as I see it is: Learn not to put back negativity
    after receiving it. To program onself not to get addicted to the pains and hurts. Addicted? Yup, hard as it sounds that’s what it is. We get bombarded by the emotions of, “Why couldn’t I have a better child”, “a better marriage”, “a better Father”, “why am I along”,
    “a better job”, “a better business”, “why aren’t my children better to me”, “why do I feel neglected”, “why am I rejected?” All of that, sadly, is an addiction. The lesson is too program ourselves of so much of the worldly things. Keep it in balance, yes. I like beautiful things (and they cost money). The problem is when moneys and ‘things’ become your god. We are all brave to come to this plant (Camp Deception) to learn. For me the hardest lesson is to walk the road alone and have the strength if everything were taken away from
    you, then the addictions will be ripped from you. Very hard. Personally, for me, suicide is breaking your ‘contract’ with God, but that another subject. I’d scrub toilets to make a living before I’d consider committing the most unholy act.

    Don Carlson
    May 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm

  32. Gee Joe, you really feel bad, Huh? Well just keep paying those taxes so I can enjoy staying home watching TV and playing video games in my new Home that your Taxes help me to get and you know I got that new Madden game don’t you? Say Joe……why don’t you come on by and play a little pool or some table hockey? Can you manage that or are you too busy busting your tiny little narrow ass? Well……la la la mañana na

    Big Papa
    June 7, 2014 at 10:19 am

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  38. most people….. white and black buy their kids clothes at Goodwill
    cause they know the kids will grow out of them fast

    lingerie stores are a great idea for WHITE people
    cause white men need the extra stimulation
    I am a white woman , if that matters

    August 21, 2014 at 11:02 pm

  39. I am a gay white woman, who hates lingerie

    August 21, 2014 at 11:03 pm

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