First, federal authorities raided Peter Nygard’s Los Angeles home and New York offices, investigating allegations of sex trafficking, two officials said. Then a major client, Dillard’s department stores, announced it would no longer carry the fashion executive’s line.
By the end of day on Tuesday, the 78-year-old Canadian multimillionaire announced he was stepping down from the company he had built over 50 years and owned entirely.
Ken Frydman, a spokesman for Mr. Nygard, said the executive would step down as chairman and divest ownership of the company, “recognizing the priority of the welfare of the thousands of Nygard employees, retail partners, loyal customers, vendors, suppliers and business partners.” He would not expand on the statement, or answer questions about who would run the company or how divestment would work.
[Read The New York Times’s investigation of allegations against Mr. Nygard.]
A joint child exploitation task force including the F.B.I. and the New York Police Department has been investigating Mr. Nygard for at least five months, said one of the two law enforcement officials, who both spoke on the condition of anonymity. At least four women told the task force, overseen by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, that Mr. Nygard assaulted them at his Bahamian estate between 2008 and 2015. Those women are also among 10 plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed in New York this month, accusing Mr. Nygard of sex trafficking and other misconduct.
On Sunday, The New York Times detailed how a long, ugly feud with his billionaire neighbor in the Bahamas had led to the lawsuit, and showed a pattern of complaints about Mr. Nygard stretching back 40 years.
Mr. Nygard is a Finnish-born multimillionaire who styles himself as Canada’s Hugh Hefner, traveling with an entourage of models and self-described “paid girlfriends.” Since the 1980s, Mr. Nygard has spent much of his time in an ultrarich community in the Bahamas.
His private multinational company has catered to middle-class women, selling leggings and tunics at his own outlets and Dillard’s department stores. On Tuesday, a Dillard’s spokeswoman said the company had canceled existing orders and suspended future purchases, saying Mr. Nygard’s alleged actions were “in direct opposition to our core values.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Frydman said the fashion executive welcomed the investigation and expected that his name would be cleared. Mr. Frydman added that Mr. Nygard, who is not in custody, was cooperating with the investigation, and accused Mr. Nygard’s neighbor, the hedge fund founder Louis Bacon, of being behind the litigation and criminal raids.
Mr. Nygard is now believed to be in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he started his company and maintains an office.
Federal law enforcement authorities raided Mr. Nygard’s home in Marina del Rey on Monday evening. About a dozen investigators in F.B.I. and New York Police jackets worked Tuesday morning at Mr. Nygard’s corporate headquarters near Times Square in Manhattan, even bringing in a crow bar and a sledgehammer. They spent time on the sixth floor of the building, which he illegally converted into a private apartment with a Jacuzzi, according to a citation from the city in 2013. The headquarters and adjacent flagship store are emblazoned with his name and feature a large picture of him, golden muscles flexing, long gray hair flowing.
Investigators, who spent about five hours in the building, carried out at least eight boxes of materials, including at least one computer hard drive.
It’s not the first time Mr. Nygard has been investigated by the federal authorities: The F.B.I. briefly looked at Mr. Nygard in 2015 and 2017 over allegations of sex trafficking. The Department of Homeland Security also investigated Mr. Nygard for nine months starting in 2016. All the inquiries sputtered out.
Mr. Nygard was estimated to be worth roughly $750 million in 2014 by Canadian Business magazine. An avowed playboy, he has fathered at least 10 children with eight women. In the Bahamas, he demanded a steady supply of sex partners, six former employees told The Times. The employees said they searched for young women at shops, clubs and restaurants to invite to parties and dinners.
Mr. Nygard called his Bahamian estate “the eighth wonder of the world”: It featured sculptures of predators like lions and smoke-breathing snakes, a human aquarium where topless women undulated in mermaid tails, and a disco with a stripper pole.
Accusations against Mr. Nygard predated the current lawsuit. Nine women in Canada and California, mostly former employees, have sued Mr. Nygard or reported him to the authorities since 1980, alleging sexual harassment or assault, The Times found. Another nine former employees said in interviews that he had raped them, touched them inappropriately or proposed sex.
The Times also talked to the 10 women involved in the lawsuit, each listed as Jane Doe in court documents. Most say that Mr. Nygard raped them during “pamper parties,” which Mr. Nygard held on many Sunday afternoons at his Bahamian estate, offering young female guests pedicures, massages, Jet Ski rides and endless alcohol.
Grace Ashford and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.
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