Leon David Black
July 31, 1951
|Alma mater||Dartmouth College|
|Occupation||Private equity investor and art collector|
|Known for||Co-founder of Apollo Management|
|Family||Tony Ressler (brother-in-law)|
Benedict I. Lubell (uncle)
Grace Borgenicht Brandt (aunt)
Leon David Black (born July 31, 1951) 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 (1921–1975), a prominent Jewish businessman who emigrated from Poland and was best known for owning the United Brands Company. His mother, Shirley Lubell (sister of Tulsa oil executive Benedict I. 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 a 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 center at Dartmouth College.
Black started out as an accountant at Peat Marwick (which later became KPMG) 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 is married to Debra Ressler, a 1976 Barnard College graduate and 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.
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 accused of any illegal conduct or wrongdoing related to his association with Epstein, and has 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.
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 [and ultimately] forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement under duress". Black has denied the allegations, describing them as "categorically untrue".
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.
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 (Marie-Thérèse) 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.
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- Duffy, Kate. "Wall Street billionaire Leon Black denied sexual-harassment allegations made by a former model and said he paid her to keep the 'affair' quiet". Business Insider. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
- "Black Says He Paid to Hide Affair, Denies It Led to Apollo Exit". Bloomberg.com. April 9, 2021. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
- Sorkin, Andrew Ross; Karaian, Jason; Kessler, Sarah; Merced, Michael J. de la; Hirsch, Lauren; Livni, Ephrat (April 9, 2021). "A New Unicorn Takes Shape". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
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- "Leon Black Sued by Woman Who Alleges Defamation, Sexual Violence". Bloomberg.
- Lattman, Peter (October 9, 2012). "Billionaire Financier Leon Black Buys Art Publisher Phaidon". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 15, 2018. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
- "Munch's "The Scream" Sold to Financier Leon Black". Wall Street Journal. July 11, 2012. Archived from the original on January 4, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- "Edvard Munch's The Scream to go on show in New York". BBC News. September 18, 2012. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
- Sherwin, Adam (June 20, 2013). "New York billionaire Leon Black's bid to take £29m Raphael from UK blocked by Ed Vaizey". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
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- Profile at Forbes.com