Leon Black, co-founder of the private equity giant Apollo Global Management, has agreed to step down from his duties as CEO after an independent review found he had paid $148 million to the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein over a period of four years.
The New York Times notes that Black’s millions bankrolled Epstein after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to a prostitution charge involving a teenage girl. Black’s payments to Epstein were made between 2013 and 2017.
Why would a sophisticated man like Leon Black, a billionaire with a reputation to protect, associate with and pay millions to Epstein?
The independent report commissioned by Apollo from the law firm, Dechert, provides an answer:
Black viewed Epstein as a confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes, who often employed attractive women. However, Black did not believe that any of the women in Epstein’s employ were underage. Black has no recollection of ever seeing Epstein with an underage woman at any time.
“A confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes.” OK, sure. And Hannibal Lecter is a erudite psychiatrist with unusual appetites.
The Dechert report notes that Black trusted Epstein and confided in him on “personal matters.” Epstein had intimate knowledge of Black’s personal finances. Black regularly visited Epstein to discuss business or meet “well known businessmen, political figures, diplomats, scientists and celebrities” who gathered at Epstein’s enormous New York townhouse.
And let’s not forget Epstein’s ties to intelligence services. Alex Acosta, Trump’s former labor secretary who led the prosecution of Epstein in Florida said he had been told “Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” according to Vicky Ward’s report in The Daily Beast.
No one has yet noted something I pointed out more than a year ago, namely, Black’s numerous ties to Russia, Donald Trump, and Russian money.
Both Black and Trump were friends of Epstein’s at different times. Black also socialized with Trump and Jared Kushner, as the photo at the top shows. Apollo loaned $187 million to Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm.
Volume 5 of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia report establishes that Leon Black accompanied Trump during his 1996 visit to Moscow to pursue real estate deals.
Trump’s trip to Moscow was organized by investor Bennett LeBow, who was trying to get Trump to develop a site he owned in Moscow. Not only did he serve up a site for Trump, LeBow lined up financing from Apollo Group, a then six-year-old private equity firm.
Black told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he did not recall any compromising behavior during the trip. He also did not recall the event in the photograph above.
Black did recall going to a concert with Trump, followed by a “discotheque.” Black later added that he and Trump “might have been in a strip club together.”
Moscow strip clubs were well-known as a potential source of kompromat or blackmail.
For years in Russia there were a number of Russian government officials or others who were exposed in these strip clubs doing not very nice things that their wives, if they have wives, probably didn’t know about. I think most of us appreciated that there was that risk in these types of clubs.Peter O’Brien, CFO of the Russian-government controlled oil firm Rosneft, as quoted in Vol. 5 of the Senate intelligence committee’ Russia report.
It’s worth noting that the Moscow trip was not part of Dechert’s investigation into Black’s dealings with Epstein. The report says it reviewed documents dating back to 1998.
In 2011, Black was back in Russia, this time for a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Black committed to help Russia set up a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
It was a privilege to help the fund, Black told Reuters, and described Russia’s “strong political leadership” as an advantage for investors at a time of global economic and financial difficulty. Black was named to the advisory board of the RDIF in 2011.
Four years later, after Russia invaded Crimea, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on the RDIF. `
Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the RDIF, makes numerous appearances in the Mueller Report. After Trump’s election, it was Dmitriev who wrote, “Putin has won.” It was also Dmitirev who met in the Seychelles island with Erik Prince after Trump’s election.
Black also knows many Russian oligarchs. He met with the notorious aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska in Russia and the United States prior to Deripaska being sanctioned by the United States in 2018. Black knows Allen Vine, whom Black described as “consigliere” to the Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who was sanctioned by the United States in 2018.
And he does business with Vladimir Potanin, one of the world’s richest men. Unlike Deripaska and Kerimov, Potanin has not been sanctioned the U.S. government.
Potanin is a large investor in U.S. companies, including Apollo Global. In a 2014 court filing in her divorce, Potanin’s wife, Natalia, listed Apollo Global Management LLC as one of the companies in which her husband has had a financial interest.
Why did Black have such close connections to Russia? Did Epstein, who had an intimate knowledge of Black’s personal affairs, know the answer?