jakub | October 2, 2023

BBC reveals subject of Panorama investigation special

The BBC has confirmed Abercrombie & Fitch ex-CEO Mike Jeffries and his partner Matthew Smith are the subject of a Panorama special.

The network announced an hour-long episode would air Monday October 2 last week, with no details on what the documentary would cover.

The special, which is now available on BBC iPlayer, is titled The Abercrombie Guys: The Dark Side Of Cool and investigates various allegations of exploitation and abuse from men against the fashion mogul.

In the documentary, it’s claimed Jeffries and Smith used a “middleman” named James Jacobson and other “recruiters” to find young men for sex events they hosted around the world between 2009 and 2015.

Eight men discussed their alleged recruitment for the events in the documentary, with the majority claiming Jacobson sexually “auditioned” them by requesting or performing oral sex before being introduced to Jeffries or Smith.

Mike Jeffries
Former Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. CREDIT: Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic for Paul Wilmot Communications

Half the alleged victims claimed they were initially misled about the nature of the events or not told sex was involved. Others said they knew the events would be sexual, but were allegedly unaware of what was expected of them. All except one said they felt harmed by the experience. Those who attended the events were all paid afterwards.

Several of the alleged victims claimed Jacobson and other recruiters raised the possibility of modelling opportunities with Abercrombie & Fitch if they attended the events.

While Jeffries and Smith have not responded to the allegations, a representative for Jacobson denied any wrongdoing and said he didn’t recall making promises of modelling opportunities.

“Any encounter I had was fully consensual, not coercive,” a statement through his lawyer said (via the BBC). “Everyone I came into contact with who attended these events went in with their eyes wide open.”

Jeffries stepped down as CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch in 2014 following declining sales. His time as CEO was the subject of Netflix documentary White Hot: The Rise & Fall Of Abercrombie & Fitch, which covered the company’s ascent and controversies, including a 2003 class-action lawsuit over alleged racial discrimination in its hiring policies.

In response to the allegations against Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch said it was “appalled and disgusted” by the alleged behaviour and that new leadership has turned the company into “the values-driven organisation we are today”.

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