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Leon Black Quits Apollo Months Earlier Than Expected Following Jeffrey Epstein Investment Scandal

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
  • Apollo Global Management said CEO Leon Black, who was financially entangled with sex predator Jeffrey Epstein, has left the company earlier than previously announced.
  • Black said his wife's and his own "health issues" played a key role in his decision to step aside now. Apollo had said in January that Black would leave by the end of July.
  • Apollo co-founder Marc Rowan has taken over as CEO.

Apollo Global Management said Monday that CEO Leon Black, who was tarnished by his financial involvement with the late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, has left the firm months earlier than previously announced.

Black, who unexpectedly also is relinquishing his position as chairman, said his wife's and his own "health issues" played a key role in his decision to step aside now.

Apollo had said in January that the 69-year-old Black would leave as CEO in July. But the firm also had said at that time that Black would remain as chairman.

Apollo co-founder Marc Rowan took over as CEO, as the investment management firm said in January that he would do.

Apollo also said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that former SEC chairman Jay Clayton has been named nonexecutive chairman of the board. Clayton has been Apollo's lead independent director.

Apollo revealed in January that Black paid Epstein $158 million for financial advice from 2012 through 2017, despite knowing that the money manager had pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from an underage girl in Florida in 2008.

Those payments, which were discovered after Apollo hired a law firm to probe the men's relationship, were three times more than the minimum of $50 million in payments Black was reported in October to have made to Epstein.

Less than three months before the higher-than-disclosed payments were revealed, Black said in a statement, "Knowing all that I have learned in the past two years about Epstein's reprehensible and despicable conduct, I deeply regret having had any involvement with him."

"With the benefit of hindsight, working with him was a horrible mistake on my part," Black said at the time.

In January, Black said he had decided that "one way I can begin to address the grievous error" of having a professional relationship with Epstein was to pledge $200 million toward gender-equality initiatives and supporting survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

In a statement Monday discussing his sooner-than-announced departure, Black said, "In the last few months, not only did we announce a transformative merger with Athene, but also expect to report that our first quarter earnings will exceed analyst consensus in all relevant measures and that the first quarter fundraising is trending towards the high end of our $15-20b annual range."

"I thus view this as the ideal moment to step back and focus on my family, my wife Debra's and my health issues, and my many other interests," he said.

Referring to Rowan, Black said: "Marc has seamlessly transitioned into the CEO role and I am confident Apollo will soar to new heights under his leadership."

""Over the past 30-plus years, my co-founders, Marc, Josh Harris and I, have worked extremely hard to make Apollo a franchise built for enduring success," Black added. "I believe strongly that Apollo's best days lie ahead. I intend to remain Apollo's largest shareholder, and strongest supporter."

Apollo's share price in the past 12 months, as well as in the year to date, has risen by markedly less on a percentage basis than a number of similar large investment companies.

Epstein, a former friend of Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, was arrested in July 2019 on federal child sex trafficking charges. He died a month later in a federal jail in Manhattan, from what has officially been ruled a suicide by hanging.

At the time of his arrest, Epstein was a registered sex offender due to his earlier conviction in Florida.

His former girlfriend and property manager, the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, was arrested last summer on federal charges related to her allegedly recruiting and grooming underage girls to be sexually abused by Epstein. She is also charged with perjuring herself by allegedly lying about her activities related to Epstein in depositions for a lawsuit by a woman who accused both of them of sexual abuse.

Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty in her criminal case, is being held without bail in a Brooklyn, New York, jail. She is scheduled to stand trial this summer.

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