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Previous story Woman's lawsuit accuses Leon Black of defamation, violent behavior Next story
Published on June 2, 2021 2:56 AM

by Jonathan Stempel

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Ex-Apollo CEO Leon Black accused of rape, defamation in lawsuit Leon Black Accused of Defamation and Sexual Violence in Lawsuit
 
NEW YORK - Leon Black, the billionaire who until recently had led private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc for more than three decades, was sued on Tuesday by a woman who accused him of defamation and subjecting her to sexual violence.

Guzel Ganieva said Black lied by denying her March 17 accusations on Twitter that he had "sexually harassed and abused" her "for years," when he told news media in April he had "foolishly had a consensual affair" with her and that she extorted him.

The complaint said Black subjected Ganieva over several years to numerous instances of unwanted sexual conduct. It referred twice to his alleged "sexual assaults and rapes" of her and specifically described one alleged rape from 2014.

"Ms Ganieva's allegations of harassment and other inappropriate behaviour are categorically untrue," a spokesman for Black said in a statement. "Mr Black emphatically denies every spurious allegation put forth in this lawsuit and looks forward to disproving them in court."

The spokesman also said Black made "substantial monetary payments" to Ganieva based on her threats to go public about their relationship. He did not specify a dollar amount.

Ganieva said in her complaint that she received unspecified "regular payments" from Black for 5-1/2 years after she signed a nondisclosure agreement in October 2015...


Background

About: Leon Black

Leon David Black is an American investor, best known as the co-founder, and former CEO of private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Black stepped down as CEO and chairman in 2021 after revelations that he paid Jeffrey Epstein $158 million for family office tax-related advice over the period from 2012 to 2017.

Early life and education

Black is a son of Eli M. Black, a prominent Jewish businessman who emigrated from Poland and was best known for owning the United Brands Company. His mother, Shirley Lubell was an artist. In 1975, his father committed suicide by jumping out of the 44th floor of the Pan Am Building in New York City. It was later made public that, at the time, federal regulators were investigating allegations that United Brands was bribing Honduran government officials. Black received an AB in Philosophy and History from Dartmouth College in 1973 and an MBA from Harvard University in 1975. He served on the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College from 2002 to 2011. In 2012, Black gave US$48 million toward a new visual arts centre at Dartmouth College.

Career

Black started as an accountant at Peat Marwick and with the publisher of Boardroom Reports. He also interviewed at Lehman Brothers but was told that he didn't have the brains or personality to succeed on Wall Street. From 1977 to 1990, Black was employed by investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, where he served as managing director, head of the Mergers & Acquisitions Group, and co-head of the Corporate Finance Department. Black was regarded as 'junk bond king' Michael Milken's right-hand man at Drexel. In 1990, he co-founded, on the heels of the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert, the private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Notable founders included: John Hannan, Drexel's former co-director of international finance; Craig Cogut, a lawyer who worked with Drexel's high-yield division in Los Angeles; Arthur Bilger, the former head of the Drexel's corporate finance department; Antony Ressler, who worked as a senior vice president in Drexel's high yield department with responsibility for the new issue/syndicate desk; and Marc Rowan, Josh Harris and Michael Gross, who all worked under Black in the mergers and acquisitions department.

Black stepped down as CEO of Apollo in 2021 due to his ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. He remained chairman for several months but stepped down abruptly in March 2021.

Personal life

Black is married to Debra Ressler, a Broadway producer and sister of Ares Management co-founder Antony Ressler. They have four children. Black's wife is a melanoma survivor. In 2007, the couple donated $25 million to form the new Melanoma Research Alliance. Leon and Debra both serve on the board of the organization.

In 2018, he was elected as the chairman of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Epstein relationship

Black said that he maintained a 'limited relationship' with Jeffrey Epstein. In 1997, he made Epstein one of the original trustees of what is today the Debra and Leon Black Foundation. In his 2020 letter to Apollo investors, Black said that Epstein provided him with 'estate planning, tax and philanthropic advice' to his 'family partnership and other related family entities'. The New York Times reported that Black had paid Epstein at least $50 million for such services from 2012 to 2017. While Black has not confirmed the $50 million sum reported by The Times, he did say that he paid Epstein 'millions of dollars annually for his work'. In October 2020, Black requested that the Apollo board conduct an independent review of his relationship with Epstein, and it retained the law firm Dechert LLP to do so. Black has never been personally accused of any illegal conduct or wrongdoing and said that he 'deeply regrets' his relationship with Epstein.

The review conducted by Dechert LLP was released on January 25, 2021. It showed that Black had paid Epstein around $158 million from 2012 through 2017 for financial services. Using Epstein's tax avoidance strategies, Black saved at least $1.3 billion.

Affair

In 2021, Black admitted to having what he called a 'consensual affair' with Guzel Ganieva, a former model. She claimed in a series of March 2021 tweets that 'I was sexually harassed and abused by him for years forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement under duress'.

Book publisher

In 2012, Black acquired Phaidon Press, a fine art books publisher. Apollo Global Management had no role in the purchase; it was an investment Black made privately.

Art collection

Two months after the May 2012 anonymous purchase of one of four versions of Edvard Munch's The Scream, The Wall Street Journal reported that Black had been the one who had paid $119.9 million for the pastel, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction as of that time. In September 2012, The Museum of Modern Art announced the painting would go on view for a six-month period starting in October.

In June 2013, it was revealed that Leon Black had purchased Head of a Young Apostle, an 11-inch-wide work by Raphael for £29 million after a four-party bidding war.

On December 22, 2015, it was reported that Leon Black purchased at auction a complete set of the Daniel Bomberg Babylonian Talmud for $9.3 million. According to a press release from the Sotheby's auction house, the sale is a new world auction record for any piece of Judaica.'

In June 2016, a lawsuit over the Picasso sculpture Bust of a Woman between the advisory firm Pelham Europe and art gallery owner Larry Gagosian was settled. Pelham Europe, an agent for a member of Qatar's royal family, and Gagosian, who had resold the bust to Leon Black, both claimed ownership. The case was settled by Maya Widmaier-Picasso, the owner of the sculpture. The settlement included Leon Black getting the sculpture and Widmaier Picasso paying Pelham an undisclosed amount.