A new lawsuit accusing Apollo co-founder Leon Black of rape underscores his connection to Jeffrey Epstein

November 30, 2022, 12:06 PM UTC
Apollo co-founder Leon Black has attempted to distance himself from Jeffrey Epstein since late 2018.
Jonathan Alcorn—Getty Images

In late 2020, the co-founder of one of the largest and most powerful private equity firms in the world, Apollo Global Management, sent a letter to the firm’s limited partners, addressing revelations that he had paid tens of millions to the now-deceased convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

The Apollo co-founder, Leon Black, stated that he was “appalled by” and “completely unaware of” the conduct of Epstein, and he denied that he himself was connected to any of it.

“There has never been an allegation by anyone…that I engaged in any wrongdoing or inappropriate conduct,” he said.

That is certainly no longer the case. 

On Monday, a woman filed a lawsuit against Leon Black and the estate of Jeffrey Epstein, alleging that Black had violently raped her in 2002 on a massage table in a room on the third floor of Epstein’s Upper East Side home. The woman, Cheri Pierson, alleges that Ghislaine Maxwell had introduced her to Epstein when she was behind on her credit card bills and desperate for cash. The complaint goes into disturbing detail regarding the alleged rape, which can be read in full here.

The lawsuit also alleges that Epstein had introduced Black to several women, including “at least several of whom had been with Epstein for years while underage.”

“There is no question that Black’s criminal conduct was facilitated and fostered by Epstein and individuals that worked for Epstein,” the complaint reads. “It is unknown how many times before or after the rape of Ms. Pierson or whether Black had met women at Epstein’s townhouse for prearranged ‘massages.’”

Black’s attorney, Susan Estrich, said in a statement that the allegations are “categorically false” and that they are “part of a scheme to extort money from Mr. Black by threatening to destroy his reputation.” In an email to Fortune, Estrich included a letter she had sent to Pierson’s law firm in advance of the new lawsuit, which stated that “Mr. Black never sexually assaulted anyone anywhere at any time, much less at Mr. Epstein’s townhouse.”

“Apollo is not a party to the suit. Apollo has no comment,” said a spokesman at Gladstone Place Partners, the public relations firm that Apollo has hired to handle all matters related to Black. 

Some of these allegations had first been brought up in a separate, ongoing lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York between Black and his ex-mistress, the former Russian model Guzel Ganieva, who sued Black for rape and sexual assault in 2021 and is represented by the same law firm as Pierson. Last year, court documents in that suit alleged that another woman, then referred to as “Jane Doe,” had been violently raped by Black in Epstein’s townhouse, but the woman hadn’t revealed her identity until now.

These new allegations against Black serve as a dark and disturbing reminder of the extent of Epstein’s connections to the rich and powerful. England’s Prince Andrew, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former President Donald Trump, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, for example, have all been tied to the late sex offender in some capacity. Epstein died in prison in 2019 after being arrested over sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. His former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was found guilty of conspiring to sexually abuse minors, is appealing a 20-year prison sentence.

Black has attempted to distance himself from Epstein since late 2018 when the Miami Herald renewed attention around the Epstein case and the non-prosecution agreement a federal judge would later deem illegal. Still, mounting evidence from lawsuit documents and investigations suggests there may have been a close connection between Black and Epstein.

An investigation commissioned by Apollo’s board in 2020 revealed that Black had paid Epstein $158 million in fees, payments made after Epstein had pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl (Black claimed that the payments were for things such as “tax advice” or “estate planning”). The Pierson lawsuit also alleges that Epstein served as one of the only executives for Black’s family office between 1997 and 2012—allegedly the only executive besides Black himself and his wife. The simultaneous Ganieva lawsuit has alleged that Black described Epstein as his “best friend.” 

The ongoing claims against Black have ostracized him from his former firm and other positions. Black left Apollo in early 2021, and he agreed not to run for re-election for his chairman seat on the board of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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Update, Nov. 30, 2022: The online version of this newsletter has been updated to reflect a statement via email from Leon Black’s attorney to Fortune that was not seen prior to publication.

Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.


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