Wexner, the CEO of retail conglomerate L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, announced at a leadership summit in Columbus on Thursday that he “won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party” anymore, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The announcement, made at a panel discussion, came the same day Obama visited Columbus before heading to a rally in Cleveland to support Democrat Richard Cordray’s run for governor.
“I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others,” Wexner said of Obama.
Wexner said he’s been telling lawmakers that he is now an independent.
“I just decided I’m no longer a Republican,” he said.
Last year, following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Wexner condemned the racists in a speech to his employees. He said Trump’s tepid response to the violence ― in which a white supremacist killed counterprotester Heather Heyer ― made him feel “dirty” and “ashamed,” the Dispatch reported.
In a speech in Illinois earlier this month, Obama also called out Trump’s lukewarm response to the violence, in which the current president said there were “very fine people” on both sides.
“How hard is it to say Nazis are bad?” Obama said.
Wexner has long donated to Republican causes, including cutting a check to Jeb Bush for $500,000 in 2015 during Bush’s presidential run. The billionaire philanthropist has also donated $2.8 million to With Honor, a super PAC that endorses both Republican and Democratic candidates.
During the panel discussion Thursday, former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman praised Wexner for standing up to his former party, the Dispatch reported.
“If you don’t think things are right, open your mouth,” Wexner responded.