Leon Black, the chairman and chief executive of private equity giant Apollo Global Management, told investors Monday he will step down as CEO "on or before my 70th birthday in July," after an independent review revealed that he paid disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein $158 million over a five-year period ending in 2017. The amount Black paid Epstein, who killed himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial on child sex-trafficking charges, was larger than expected. Black will stay on as chairman.
Apollo's board had ordered the inquiry at Black's request in October, after The New York Times reported he paid Epstein at least $75 million, bringing unwelcome scrutiny to the company. The review, conducted by the law firm Dechert LLP, found no evidence that Black had participated in any of Epstein's criminal activities or been introduced by Epstein to any underage girls. Black viewed Epstein as a "confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes," the report found, and believed he deserved a second chance and had "served his time" after pleading guilty to a prostitution charge with a teenage girl in 2008.
The review also found that Epstein had provided "legitimate advice" to Black that resulted in tax savings of between $1 billion and $2 billion. Black's personal fortune is estimated at more than $8 billion, the Times reports. Monday's report said Black plans to donate $200 million to charities that fight sex trafficking and support women's causes.
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Black confounded Apollo with two younger partners, Marc Rowan and Joshua Harris, in the early 1990s from the ashes of notorious junk bond financier Michael Milken's investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert. In an unexpected move, the semi-retired Rowan will take over as CEO when Black steps down. Harris had urged Black to resign immediately in a series of meetings Sunday, arguing that his poor judgment in consorting with Epstein and funding his depraved lifestyle posed an urgent risk to Apollo's reputation, the Times reports.
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