Leon Black

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Leon Black
Born1951 (age 68–69)
Alma materDartmouth College
Harvard University
OccupationPrivate equity investor
Known forCo-founder of Apollo Management
Net worthUS$8.8 billion (June 2020)[1]
Spouse(s)Debra Ressler

Leon David Black (born 1951) is an American investor and art collector. He specializes in leveraged buyouts and private equity. He co-founded the private equity firm Apollo Global Management in 1990. He is the chairman of MoMa.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

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.[3] 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.[3][4] Black received a BA in Philosophy and History from Dartmouth College in 1973 and a MBA from Harvard University in 1975.[3] He served on the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College from 2002 to 2011.[5] In 2012 Black gave US$48 million toward a new visual arts center at Dartmouth College.[6]


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 the Wall Street.[7] 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.[8] Black was regarded as "junk bond king" Michael Milken's right-hand man at Drexel.[9] In 1990, he co-founded, on the heels of the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert, the private equity firm Apollo Global Management.[10][11] 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.[12][13][14]

Personal life[edit]

Black is married to Debra Ressler,[15] a Broadway producer and sister of Ares Management co-founder Antony Ressler.[16] They have four children.[17] Black's wife is a melanoma survivor. In 2007, the couple donated $25 million to form the new Melanoma Research Alliance. They have committed to donating another $15 million over the next three years.[18] Leon and Debra both serve on the board of the organization.[19] In 2012 he acquired Phaidon Press, a fine art books publisher. Apollo Global Management had no role in the purchase. It was an investment Black made privately.[20] In 2018, he was elected as the chairman of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.[7][21]

Art collection[edit]

The Scream by Edvard Munch

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.[22] In September 2012, The Museum of Modern Art announced the painting would go on view for a six-month period starting in October.[23]

In June 2013, it was revealed that Leon Black had purchased Head of a Young Apostle, an 11-inch-wide (28 cm) work by Raphael for £29 million after a four-party bidding war.[24]

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.[25] According to a press release from the Sotheby's auction house, the sale is "a new world auction record for any piece of Judaica."[26]

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.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Forbes profile: Leon Black". Forbes. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  2. ^ "Jeffrey Epstein Was a Sex Offender. The Powerful Welcomed Him Anyway". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c Creswell, Julie (December 6, 2008). "In Private Equity, the Limits of Apollo's Power". The New York Times.
  4. ^ St. Petersburg Times: "Violent Death Contradicted Executives' Quiet Life" by Peter T. Kilbourne February 19, 1975
  5. ^ "Trustees Emeriti". Dartmouth College. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  6. ^ Lattman, Peter (March 29, 2012). "Apollo's Leon Black Donates $48 Million to Dartmouth". The New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Melby, Caleb; Perlberg, Heather (January 16, 2020). "Nobody Makes Money Like Apollo's Ruthless Founder Leon Black". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  8. ^ Leon D. Black '73 from Dartmouth College
  9. ^ "King of the Hill". Time. June 24, 2001.
  10. ^ Maza, Erik (March 4, 2014). "Bernard Arnault Receives MoMa's David Rockefeller Award". WWD. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  11. ^ Drexel Divided on Settlement. New York Times, December 17, 1988
  12. ^ Ex-Drexel Executives Arrange Aid for Fruit of the Loom, August 24, 1990
  13. ^ Changes at Drexel Continue. New York Times, March 11, 1989
  14. ^ Drexel's Uncertain Future. New York Times, October 15, 1989
  15. ^ New York Times: "Paid Notice: Deaths RESSLER, IRA RICHARD" October 29, 2000
  16. ^ Bloomberg: "Leon Black Loses to Carl Icahn as Apollo Sets New Credit Terms" By Anthony Effinger & Cristina Alesci July 7, 2010
  17. ^ The 400 Richest Americans #160 Leon Black (Forbes, 2006)
  18. ^ Wall Street Journal: "Melanoma Survivor Seeks Cure" By LAURA LANDRO May 3, 2010
  19. ^ "Board of Directors". Melanoma Research Alliance.
  20. ^ Lattman, Peter (October 9, 2012). "Billionaire Financier Leon Black Buys Art Publisher Phaidon". The New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  21. ^ "The Museum of Modern Art Elects Leon D. Black Chairman of Board of Trustees; Ronnie Heyman is Elected President". press.moma.org (Press release). May 30, 2018. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  22. ^ "Munch's "The Scream" Sold to Financier Leon Black". Wall Street Journal. July 11, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  23. ^ "Edvard Munch's The Scream to go on show in New York". BBC News. September 18, 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Tablet Magazine". December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
  26. ^ "Daniel Bomberg's 16th-century printing of the Talmud sells for $9.3 mill". Art Daily. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
  27. ^ Kazakina, Katya (June 15, 2016). "Leon Black Wins Picasso's 'Bust of a Woman' as Legal Drama Ends". Bloomberg. Retrieved June 10, 2017.

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