Ex-Apollo CEO Leon Black is accusing his fellow co-founder of a ‘malicious campaign’ against him
I’ve never been one for a soap opera, but it’s rather hard to peel my eyes away from the near-implausible chaos ensuing Apollo Global Management’s former execs.
Leon Black—the ex-Apollo CEO who resigned after a third-party law firm inquiry found he had made $158 million in financial advice and other payments to the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein—is accusing one of the private equity firm’s co-founders of attempting a “coup and smear campaign” against him.
It’s the latest revelation in an ongoing lawsuit against Black. His ex-mistress, former Russian model Guzel Ganieva, filed claims of rape and sexual assault against Black with the Supreme Court of New York. That was a few months after Black had resigned as CEO and chairman of Apollo in late March 2021.
That legal spat has, perhaps unsurprisingly, turned rather ugly. Black filed a subsequent lawsuit against Ganieva in October, accusing her of trying to extort him and claiming that a handful of unidentified individuals were supporting her in an effort to ruin his reputation.
Both lawsuits have thrown one of Black’s personal relationships into the public for all to see. Now, an alleged quibble between him and Josh Harris, one of Apollo’s four co-founders, is on full display.
In the latest 23-page filing within the original lawsuit (produced in an attempt by Black’s legal teams to procure Ganieva’s AT&T phone records), Black turned attention to Harris, effectively accusing him of running an aggressive behind-the-scenes effort to steal his chief executive position.
Reading the filing is reminiscent of a script for a new drama:
“…Mr. Harris forged ahead with a malicious campaign to take Mr. Black down. Mr. Harris convened a team of media experts—including, prominently, Mr. Rubenstein [Steven Rubenstein is a senior public relations professional who was then on retainer with Apollo]—not only to manage his own reputation but also to impugn, and indeed attempt to destroy, Mr. Black. At a certain point in their discussions, Mr. Harris’ team deliberately and explicitly removed their communications with Mr. Harris off of email in favor of another format—one that would not be so easily traceable.
But, as February turned into March, it seemed like the die was cast. Mr. Rowan would become CEO in July, and Mr. Harris was shunted aside—as media stories characterized him, the jilted loser in the ‘succession battle.’ And that is precisely when Ms. Ganieva resurfaced from her long silence, with a series of sensational, utterly invented, social media accusations against Mr. Black.”
You can’t make this sort of thing up.
A spokesperson for Harris told the Financial Times Black’s allegations were “baseless, untrue, and—frankly—unhinged,” and Rubenstein’s attorney said the claims were “packed with false information” and that Rubenstein has no relationship with Black’s former mistress.
Harris had resigned from Apollo in May 2021. This was not too long after co-founder Marc Rowan dumped his retirement to re-join Apollo as its chief executive after Black’s earlier-than-expected departure.
Whatever really happened behind the scenes, I think we can all agree this is not a great look for Apollo. Stay tuned for Season 2.
CVC Capital Partners, a storied European private equity firm, has reportedly hired bankers and is weighing an IPO in London, per Bloomberg. This comes, quite shortly, after private equity firm TPG’s public debut. A deal could value CVC at more than $20 billion.
Enjoy your weekend!
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