Abercrombie & Fitch ex-CEO Mike Jeffries accused of exploiting men for sex through organized operation


The CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch during the brand’s heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s, Mike Jeffries, is facing allegations of exploitation by men recruited for sex events he hosted around the world, according to a BBC News investigation.

Two former U.S. prosecutors who reviewed the documents and first-hand accounts gathered by the British network for its report called for prosecutors to investigate whether Jeffries should face sex trafficking charges.

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Mike Jeffries, ex-CEO of clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, leaves the store on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris on October 27, 2012.

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BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images

Who is Mike Jeffries?

Mike Jeffries took over Abercrombie in the 1990s and transformed it from a failing company into a successful brand built around preppy sex appeal. Even then, he was a controversial figure. 

Jeffries faced claims of racial discrimination and that his boyfriend, Matthew Smith, had undue influence in the company’s operations.

In 2014, Jeffries stepped down as CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch with a retirement package of over $25 million, from which he is still receiving annual payments, the BBC reports.

“He was selling fame, and the price was compliance.”

The BBC spoke to 12 men who described attending or organizing events run for Jeffries and Smith that involved sex acts.

Eight men who attended the events told the BBC they had been recruited by a middleman who was missing part of his nose, identified by the BBC as James Jacobson. All said they were paid to attend and signed non-disclosure agreements. Some had knowledge sex would be involved. All but one of these men said they felt harmed by the experience, the BBC reported.

Aspiring model David Bradberry was 23 in 2010, when he said he was introduced to Jacobson by an agent who described him as the gatekeeper to Abercrombie’s executives.

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David Bradberry is shown in this undated photo provided by BBC News.

BBC News

Bradberry said Jacobson suggested he could meet with Abercrombie’s official photographer, but Jacobson “made it clear to me that unless I let him perform oral sex on me, that I would not be meeting with Abercrombie & Fitch or Mike Jeffries,” Bradberry told the BBC.

“I was paralyzed. It was like he was selling fame, and the price was compliance,” Bradberry said, adding that he had been made to believe “this is where everybody gets their start.” After the meeting, Bradberry said Jacobson gave him $500.

Bradberry said he was then invited to an event at Jeffries’ house in the Hamptons, and Jacobson directed him to use a gift card to purchase an Abercrombie & Fitch outfit for the occasion.

When he arrived, he said he spoke to Jeffries and Smith about his aspirations to be a model for the brand. Then, Bradberry said Jeffries held “poppers” under his nose, a muscle relaxing drug that can cause disorientation and a head rush, after which Jeffries had sex with him. 

Bradberry said the secluded location and the presence of other staff in Abercrombie & Fitch uniforms meant he “didn’t feel safe to say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t feel comfortable with this.’”

“This was not my choice. This was me being carefully manipulated.”

Barrett Pall, a former model, told the BBC he was recruited to attend one of Jeffries’ events when he was 22 by an older model. He said he was being financially supported by the older model at the time, so felt indebted to him.

When he arrived at the event, where he was one of a number of men, he said he felt under pressure to “perform.” One of the other men performed oral sex on him while Jeffries and Smith watched, he said.

“This was not my choice,” Pall said, reflecting on the event. “This was me being carefully manipulated by a group of older men who knew exactly what they were doing because they had done it before.”

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Barret Pall is shown in this undated photo from BBC News.

BBC News

All the men who spoke to the BBC described receiving envelopes filled with thousands of dollars in cash from Jefferies’ staff after attending events.

Another man called Alex, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, said he was recruited to attend an event involving dozens of men who were flown to a five-star hotel in Morocco. He said he was a struggling model with a family to support at the time, and was recruited as a dancer, so expected he would have to strip.

While being recruited by Jacobson, he said he was told to perform oral sex on him.

“I had debt, I wanted to support my family,” Alex, who identifies as straight, said. “I performed the job and I was, like, disgusted.”

“There is a very good possibility I was drugged and raped.”

When he arrived at the event in Marrakesh, he said he was given champagne, which he believes was spiked with drugs. He said he fell asleep and woke up with a condom inside him.

“I believe there is a very good possibility I was drugged and raped. I’ll probably never, never know for sure the answer of what happened,” Alex told the BBC.

He said he was too nervous to get tested for sexually transmitted infections after the event, but a few years later, became very ill. When he went to the doctor, he was diagnosed with HIV, which he believes he contracted at the event.

Two former U.S. prosecutors who independently reviewed documents and first-hand accounts provided by BBC News said they believed an investigation should be conducted to determine whether charges for sex trafficking should be brought against Jeffries and Smith.

Jeffries and Smith did not reply to the BBC’s multiple requests for comment on its investigation.

CBS News has sought comment from Jeffries and Smith on the BBC’s investigation and is awaiting a reply.

Jacobson, the alleged middle-man, said in a statement through his lawyer that he was offended by the allegation of “any coercive, deceptive or forceful behavior on my part” which he denied, and said that he had “no knowledge of any such conduct by others.”

He said he didn’t remember making any promises of modeling opportunities, and “any encounter I had was fully consensual, not coercive. Everyone I came into contact with who attended these events went in with their eyes wide open.”

Abercrombie & Fitch told the BBC it was “appalled and disgusted” by Jeffries’ alleged behavior. It said new leadership had transformed the company into “the valued driven organization we are today, and that it has “zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or discrimination of any kind.”

Pall, the former model who was recruited to one of the events, said the experience “stole any ounce of innocence that I had left. It mentally messed me up.”

He now says he has the language to describe what happened to him.

“I can sit here and tell you that I was taken advantage of. And I’ve chosen to speak out, because I hope to achieve change. To encourage others to speak out and share their stories.” 


“The Abercrombie Guys: The Dark Side of Cool”  will be released in the U.S. on October 6 on BBC Select, available to audiences via Amazon Prime Video Channels, the Apple TV app and The Roku Channel.

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