One afternoon this past winter, billionaire Leon Black arrived for lunch at Avra in Midtown Manhattan, settled into a large banquette, and proceeded to hold court while a steady stream of well-wishers made their way over to greet him. Among them was a partner at his old private-equity firm, the $49 billion Apollo Global Management, which he co-founded in 1990.

Although he had resigned under pressure more than two years earlier as chairman and C.E.O. of Apollo, Black still appeared to command the kind of respect that he had enjoyed back before Jeffrey Epstein, who was his close friend and self-styled tax adviser, was arrested in 2019, on charges of sex trafficking. It was then that all of Black’s troubles began.

In the weeks and months after the arrest, and Epstein’s apparent suicide in a Metropolitan Correctional Center cell downtown, Black became the subject of intense scrutiny—from the media, Apollo’s investors, and ultimately the Apollo board, which in November 2020 hired the law firm Dechert to investigate Black and Epstein’s relationship.

Black at a 2017 dinner for the Melanoma Research Alliance, a charity he founded.

In January 2021, the Dechert report, which was filed with the S.E.C., revealed that Black had paid the uncredentialed Epstein $158 million between 2013 and 2017, allegedly for tax and estate planning. And yet it officially cleared Black of wrongdoing, and that seemed to be that.

Then two women, Black’s former mistress Guzel Ganieva and a New Jersey receptionist named Cheri Pierson, accused Black of rape in civil court. This past May, Black achieved a legal victory when a judge dismissed Ganieva’s civil suit against him, ruling that an NDA that Ganieva had signed in 2015 “unambiguously covers all claims arising out of the parties’ relationship, past or future.” Last month, Ganieva, now acting as her own attorney, appealed the dismissal; a decision is pending. Pierson’s case, meanwhile, also remains pending. Black has denied her claims and, in his legal filings, noted that Pierson has a “long history of vexatious litigation.”

This summer, Black has been out on the power-lunch circuit, dining at Casa Lever, and Coco’s at Colette, a private dining club on the 37th floor of the GM Building. But now, all of a sudden, he is back in the news.

On July 25, an autistic woman who was allegedly an Epstein trafficking victim filed a federal lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” alleging that when she was just 16 years old she was “passed directly to Black’s hands from the hands of Jeffrey Epstein” and then raped by Black in the massage room of Epstein’s Upper East Side town house. That said, she has not yet joined as a class member in the $290 million settlement reached in the Epstein victims’ lawsuit against JPMorgan. “Mr. Black has no idea who this woman is and has never met her,” says Black’s spokesperson.

Earlier that day, Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden revealed that the committee, “prompted by inconsistencies” in Dechert’s report, has been investigating Black and his “financial dealings with Jeffrey Epstein” as part of its review of how the 0.01 percent “avoid or evade” taxes. The committee announced that it has “uncovered serious tax issues and other concerns with trusts and structures Black executed to avoid over $1 billion in future gift and estate taxes.”

According to the committee, at “every stage of the committee’s investigation, Black has refused to answer questions or provide any documents that could demonstrate how Epstein’s compensation for tax and estate planning services was determined or justified.”

“Mr. Black has cooperated extensively with the Committee, providing detailed information about the matters under review,” says Black’s spokesperson. “The transactions referenced in the Committee’s letter were lawful in all respects, were conceived of, vetted and implemented by reputable law firms and tax and other advisors, and Mr. Black has fully paid all taxes owed to the government.”

In the weeks and months after the arrest, and Epstein’s apparent suicide in a Metropolitan Correctional Center cell downtown, Black became the subject of intense scrutiny.

Just days earlier, The New York Times reported that back in January, two months after Epstein’s estate reached its own settlement of more than $100 million with the U.S. Virgin Islands, Black pre-emptively agreed to pay the Virgin Islands $62.5 million in order to “be released from any potential claims” related to Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation. “There is no suggestion in the USVI settlement that Mr. Black was aware of or participated in any misconduct,” says Black’s spokesperson.

Why, almost four years after Epstein’s death, is Black now in the crosshairs? Court documents, which have not been previously published, reviewed in the course of AIR MAIL’s six-month investigation into Black seem to provide an answer.

The U.S. Virgin Islands has alleged that Epstein’s “criminal activities” on the island of Little St. James were funded by a “single source” who paid $158 million between 2013 and 2017 to an entity called Southern Trust.

According to the documents, which were filed as part of a lawsuit brought by the Virgin Islands against Epstein’s banker, JPMorgan Chase, Epstein set up a “biomedical and financial informatics” consulting firm named Southern Trust, in Saint Thomas, which “does not appear to have had any clients and performed no visible informatics services.” Rather, the Virgin Islands alleges, Southern Trust was “the main source of funds for the Epstein Enterprise.”

And where did these funds for the enterprise, whose business was sex trafficking, come from? “Bank records show that virtually all of Southern Trust Company’s income came from a single source … In all the single source paid $158 million to Defendant Southern Trust Company from 2013 to 2017.” In other words, the same amount of money that Black paid to Epstein, over the same period of time.

“These payments to Southern Trust were the main source of funds for Epstein’s Enterprise,” the Virgin Islands alleges. “Indeed, no other entity in Epstein’s Enterprise generated revenues. Funds received from the single source were funneled at the direction of [Epstein’s accountant and lawyer] to Epstein’s personal accounts, and other Epstein entities to fund his criminal activities.”

And then the Virgin Islands lays out what those who facilitated Epstein’s enterprise, which “trafficked underage girls to the Virgin Islands,” received in exchange: “bestowal of financial and other benefits, including sexual services and forced labor from victims.”

“As publicly reported, Mr. Black engaged and made payments to Jeffrey Epstein for legitimate financial advisory services, which based on everything now known, he very much regrets,” says Black’s spokesperson.

Earlier this summer, JPMorgan provided the Virgin Islands with a spreadsheet of more than 9,000 transactions paid to “Epstein-related persons” totaling more than $2.4 billion between 2005 and 2019. This week, they revealed the identities of the senders; one of them is Leon Black.

The massage room in Epstein’s Upper East Side town house, where Jane Doe alleges Black raped her.

“Black wasn’t the only man that Epstein trafficked [Jane Doe] to,” says Jeanne Christensen of the law firm Wigdor, who has represented victims of Harvey Weinstein and is now representing both Jane Doe and Pierson. “But of all of them, he was by far the one that was most violent.”

When I ask Christensen what prompted Jane Doe to come forward now, she says, “He’s not behind bars.”

“The reality is,” she adds, “Guzel Ganieva reported her experiences to the D.A. My client Cheri Pierson reported to the D.A. And this client has as well. And as you can see, nothing’s been done.” “Ms. Christensen’s comments are as vile and reprehensible as they are defamatory,” says Black’s spokesperson. “The Wigdor firm is abusing the legal system. This must stop.” (The District Attorney’s office did not respond to Air Mail’s request for comment.)

“People are forgetting that most Epstein victims did not come forward until he was dead,” Christensen points out. “It’s understandable, because they feared him so much. And there’s a lot of fear with Leon Black.”

Unimaginably Brazen Looting

Back in 1975, Leon Black was just a philosophy- and Shakespeare-loving 23-year-old, profoundly disinterested in his Harvard Business School studies. Then tragedy struck.

That February 3, at 8 a.m., Black’s father, Elihu Menashe Blachowitz, a Polish-born rabbi turned C.E.O. of Chiquita-banana importer United Brands, smashed open the window of his 44th-floor office in the Pan Am Building and leaped to his death. “My father was a god to me,” Black said decades later. “And then he committed suicide. Suicides, you know, aren’t usually committed by gods.”

The death of Eli Black, as he was known, was featured repeatedly on the front page of The New York Times. One early headline attributed his suicide to Stress of Corporate Life. But subsequent reports told a different story: U.S. Company Payoffs Way of Life Overseas; Direct Bribe Bid is Laid to Black.

In Leon Black’s later telling, it was this event that would set him on the path to becoming a kind of Wall Street god himself: “After my father died, we were pretty much wiped out, financially, as a family. So I decided to give finance a try.”

The 1975 suicide of Black’s father, Eli, the C.E.O. of United Brands, was covered extensively in the media.

In 1977, Black found his way to the junk-bond firm Drexel Burnham Lambert, where he worked his way up to head of mergers and acquisitions, and became the right-hand man to Michael Milken. At Drexel, Black became known for his hot temper and his ravenous appetite, qualities which came to the fore when he was under pressure to get a deal done, and which led to his harshly comic nickname of “Pizza the Hut.”

In 1988, both Milken and Drexel were charged with securities fraud, and the firm agreed to pay $650 million in fines. By 1990, it was bankrupt, having collapsed amid the junk-bond-market meltdown. Ultimately, three Drexel bankers, including Milken, would go to prison. (Three decades later, Milken would be pardoned by President Trump.)

But the newly unemployed Black was undaunted, and now had a bold vision for his future. Going forward he would no longer simply be a banker; he would have skin in the game himself.

Together with a team of former Drexel bankers, including two young Wharton graduate protégés named Josh Harris and Marc Rowan, Black started a new firm, which he would later name Apollo, after a son of the all-powerful Zeus.

With financing from the French commercial bank Crédit Lyonnais and other foreign entities, Black and his colleagues paid $3.25 billion for the bond portfolio of a failed California life insurer that had been a Drexel client. As a result, Black was already quite familiar with many of the insurer’s junk bonds and their underlying credits. The deal yielded Black and his team ownership stakes in a variety of companies including Vail Resorts and Samsonite luggage. Two years later, the portfolio was worth more than $5 billion.

Marc Rowan, Black’s successor as chief executive officer of Apollo Global Management Inc., in 2023.

While the deal was a resounding success, it also led to the first of many lawsuits. Crédit Lyonnais and the other French entities backing Black were charged with lying to the Federal Reserve in order to conceal their foreign ownership of an American insurer. The litigation continued for more than a decade, and in the end, the attendant settlements and fines amounted to nearly $1 billion.

“Guzel Ganieva reported her experiences to the [New York] D.A. My client Cheri Pierson reported [her allegations] to the D.A. And this client [Jane Doe] has as well. And as you can see, nothing’s been done.”

As the private-equity industry evolved, so too did Apollo’s playbook. Where for many years it mainly invested in distressed situations that frequently resulted in pitched legal battles, it eventually started buying companies in order to pursue growth via acquisition or by expanding into new markets. Apollo even wisely morphed from being a borrower of funds into being a lender, getting into the “retirement services” business via its purchase of Iowa-based Athene Holdings, which continues to provide the firm with a steady stream of investing capital.

Yet all through the decades, one thing about Apollo remained consistent: its relentless drive for success at almost any cost. Black and his partners are known, as one credit investor puts it, for “how ruthless they are.... They don’t play nicely in the sandbox. The way they set things up in advance is so highly skewed in their favor, and they do not hesitate to exploit their position of strength, on occasion pushing ethical boundaries.” (As of late, the company has been working to reverse its ruthless image.)

When the Apollo-owned Caesars Entertainment declared bankruptcy in 2015, Caesars’ debt holders accused Apollo of “unimaginably brazen looting.” As a result, Marc Rowan, as well as other Apollo executives involved in the deal, were required by the court to produce their personal financial records to show they were capable of paying billions in potential personal judgments against them. In the end, Apollo settled on terms that were considered favorable for Caesars’ creditors, in a rare defeat for Apollo.

Black has alleged that Apollo co-founder Josh Harris (seen here in 2013) was behind Ganieva’s lawsuit.

Apollo has long had a close relationship with CalPERS, the $469 billion California public retirement system. Between 2007 and 2008 Calpers invested $3 billion with Apollo; former CalPERS board member Alfred Villalobos was the placement agent. To seal the deal, however, Villalobos had offered kickbacks to CalPERS’s then C.E.O. and also created fraudulent investor-disclosure letters, which he provided to Apollo. After he was indicted for fraud and corruption in 2013, Villalobos committed suicide at a Nevada gun range just one month before he was to go to trial, thereby sparing Apollo further scrutiny.

In 2015, a female executive at Apollo’s retirement-services company, Athene, filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing alleging that Jim Belardi, the company’s C.E.O., had issued a “continuing steady stream of sexual profanities, interrogations, and public humiliations with rants against gays … Asians, Indians, Blacks, the disabled.” However, according to reports at the time, the complaint was neither shared with all of Athene’s board members nor disclosed to potential investors as the company prepared to go public. Ultimately the executive left her job and settled with Athene for $500,000. Belardi, meanwhile, remains the company’s C.E.O.

“This is a baseless allegation from a single employee nearly a decade ago,” says Apollo’s Global Head of Corporate Communications, Joanna Rose. “After receiving the complaint in late 2015, independent outside counsel conducted a review, consistent with standard practices, and found no evidence of harassment, discrimination, or other illegal conduct. The parties engaged in mediation, and the matter was settled in the ordinary course to avoid the much higher cost and distraction of litigation.”

For Black, these were mere speed bumps on the road to his $10 billion fortune and the gilded, itinerant lifestyle that goes along with it. Black travels the world on his yacht and his private plane, visiting his historic $28 million home in London’s Belgravia, and also his Beverly Hills estate, which once belonged to Tom Cruise.

Black, a major art collector, and his wife, Debra, at a party for the Museum of Modern Art in 2018.

He spends summer weekends at his oceanfront mansion in Southampton. In Manhattan, he lives in a large apartment on Park Avenue across the street from a studio apartment that, according to Ganieva, he used for trysts.

As if all that weren’t enough to satisfy Black’s gargantuan appetites, in 2014, he and his wife, Debra, who is mother to his four adult children, purchased a landmarked $50 million, 20,000-square-foot Renaissance-style limestone town house on East 70th Street, just around the corner from Epstein’s.

Black’s world-class collections include a rare, complete Babylonian Talmud from the 16th century which he purchased for $9.3 million in 2015, setting an auction record for Judaica. He paid $106 million for Picasso’s Bust of a Woman (Marie-Thérèse), sparking a legal battle with the Qatari royal family, who alleged that Maya Widmaier Picasso had sold them the sculpture as well. As is so often the outcome of the disputes in which Black gets embroiled, a significant amount of money changed hands, but in the end, Black got his Picasso.

(That said, some in the insular New York art world refer to Black as “One-offsky” behind his back, on account of his penchant for buying one work of seemingly every blue-chip artist.)

Playing Pygmalion

On an unseasonably cool Monday in October 2015, Black met Ganieva, a 32-year-old Russian former model, for lunch at the Four Seasons. To the other titans dining there that day, seeing the six-foot-five, 64-year-old Black out with the impossibly thin, much younger woman instead of his 60-year-old Broadway-producer wife must have seemed nothing out of the ordinary. After all, Black was well known for his predilection for models and their ilk. And yet Black’s Four Seasons lunch that day was anything but ordinary.

Black had first met Ganieva, back in 2008, on International Women’s Day, at a party with Russian models at the Upper East Side home of Donald Engel, a former colleague of Black’s from Drexel, where, in the 1980s, Engel was well known for organizing the firm’s annual “Predators’ Ball” and stocking it with escorts.

“They thought it was funny that they were hosting an International Women’s Day party,” says Christensen, who represented Ganieva until recently. ”Get it? All the escorts were foreign women.”

According to legal documents, after wooing Ganieva with a series of fancy dinners, Black wound up spending a small fortune to play her Pygmalion. For years, he allegedly paid the rent on Ganieva’s Upper East Side apartment and covered the cost of both her acting lessons and her tuition at Columbia University. Black bought Ganieva a Steinway piano, spent $40,000 commissioning an artist to paint her portrait, sent her on a ski trip to the Alps, and, as he himself would later state in a legal filing, gave her “many, many gifts of cash.”

Black’s former mistress, Guzel Ganieva (right), in 2014, the year she alleges that Black raped her.

In 2011, Black even loaned the unemployed Ganieva $480,000, paid out in $60,000 installments every three months. When these payments concluded in March of 2013 (years before the principal was, at least theoretically, due to be paid back at 5 percent interest), Black gave Ganieva another $480,000 two-year loan under the same terms.

In 2014, just before Ganieva graduated from Columbia with a degree in mathematics, she landed a job, albeit briefly, as a staff writer at Mort Zuckerman’s U.S. News & World Report. While there, she published two articles, one of which was titled “Top 10 Reasons to Worry About Climate Change.” In addition to “Strife between nation states” and “Unhealthy conditions in major cities,” the list also included “St. Barts without the yachts” and “Bad skiing in Aspen and St. Moritz.”

According to her complaint, when her student visa was set to expire, Black arranged for Ganieva to have interviews at Goldman Sachs, including with none other than the firm’s investment-banking chairman, Alison Mass, who had once worked for him at Drexel. But those interviews, perhaps not surprisingly, proved fruitless, and in July 2014 Ganieva left New York to return to Russia.

The following June, three months after Black’s $60,000 quarterly payments came to an end, Ganieva returned to New York and asked Black for more money—ultimately the extraordinary sum of $100 million. After a series of negotiations that continued into the fall, Black presented Ganieva with a contract over lunch at the Four Seasons.

“They thought it was funny that they were hosting an International Women’s Day party. Get it? All the escorts were foreign women.”

The one-page document was intended to bring about an end to, as the contract put it, “certain allegations and … certain claims,” which “if made public, would damage LDB’s career, reputation, and relationships with others.” The NDA gives no further details, other than to note that Ganieva had made her allegations “under extreme stress” and “now concedes [they] are not true.”

In exchange for signing the agreement, Black would forgive Ganieva the $1 million he had loaned her, pay her $100,000, and also provide “other consideration.” Although this “other consideration” was not specified in writing, Black told Ganieva it would consist of a one-time payment of two million pounds toward Ganieva’s obtaining legal status in the U.K. (a sum equivalent to approximately $3 million at the time), plus $100,000 wired into her account every month for the next 15 years—provided she did not go public with her allegations. The total package added up to more than $20 million.

“I can’t mention your name ever, basically,” Ganieva said to Black. He explained that while Ganieva could “say that you know me,” she could not discuss their relationship, her claims against him, or their financial arrangement with anyone. (Except, the NDA noted, “as otherwise required by applicable law.”) Ganieva signed the document and, over a shared Grand Marnier soufflé, a Four Seasons specialty, laughed that she was now “a woman of means.”

And yet, Black did not give Ganieva a copy of the NDA she’d just signed. In fact, unbeknownst to Ganieva, Black was recording their lunch and had secretly recorded previous negotiating sessions as well.

As it turns out, Black had had help in drawing up the NDA, not just from his legal counsel but also from Epstein. In fact, as Black himself admitted in response to an interrogatory filed by Ganieva, Epstein was the only person (excluding Black’s family members and legal counsel) with whom Black had discussed the NDA, other than an employee of global investigations firm Nardello & Company, whose bio cites expertise in “collecting physical and electronic evidence.”

Black had help in drawing up Ganieva’s NDA, not just from his legal counsel but also from Epstein.

Interestingly, the same month that Black presented Ganieva with the NDA, he made an anonymous $10 million donation to a charity founded by Epstein called Gratitude America. Although the charity’s self-explanatory, if somewhat nebulous, mission was to “support the expression of gratitude for the ideals of America,” it was based offshore, on the Caribbean island of Saint Thomas, just east of where Epstein resided, on an island called Little St. James. When Epstein incorporated the charity, in 2012, he endowed it with a single dollar. Up until Black made his $10 million donation, three years later, it had only a single dollar still.

In November 2015, just one month after Black made his donation to Gratitude America, Guzel Ganieva received her first $100,000 payment from Black, as per her NDA. But when the money hit her bank account, she noticed something curious. In the past, her bank had recorded the sums she received from Black as coming from “Leon D. Black” or “J. Black Trust Account.”

Now, however, the money was coming from a different source: a newly-created account called “E Trust.” Black would later claim in a legal filing, “To be very clear: the ‘E’ in ‘E Trust’ stands for Extortion.

A Reputation Problem

In 2018, Black became chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, which had previously made him and his wife its “Party in the Garden” honorees alongside Martin Scorsese.

It must have seemed like it could all go on forever. And perhaps, having named his family-investment office Elysium Management, Black believed that it would.

But on July 6, 2019, Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport on charges of sex trafficking, and suddenly everything started to change.

In the wake of Epstein’s arrest, a slew of articles began to appear about the wealthy and powerful men who had socialized with him throughout the past decade in spite of the fact that he was a convicted sex offender: Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, and Donald Trump, to name a few. But soon, one name above all began to dominate the headlines.

Private-Equity Guru Leon Black’s Family Foundation is Scrambling to Distance Itself from Sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein, But It’s Raising More Questions, read the headline of a Business Insider article, which noted that according to tax filings, Epstein had served as the “sole director” of the Leon Black Family Foundation from 2001 to 2012.

The taint quickly spread to Apollo. On the firm’s second-quarter earnings call less than three weeks later, Black read aloud the memo that he had sent his 1,250 employees. “Apollo has never done any business with Mr. Epstein at any point in time,” he assured the company’s shareholders.

As for himself, Black said that “Mr. Epstein has provided professional services to my family partnership and related family entities involving tax, estate planning and philanthropic advice.” Black added that he had donated to “certain charitable organizations with which Mr. Epstein was affiliated.”

Black then said that Epstein had served as director of his family’s foundation only until 2007—the year before Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution as part of a sweetheart non-prosecution deal he struck with Florida’s then U.S. attorney Alex Acosta to avoid federal charges. (Acosta would later resign from his position as Trump’s secretary of labor on account of the deal.)

Former U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta (right, in 2019) resigned as Donald Trump’s secretary of labor following criticism of the 2008 plea deal he had negotiated with Epstein.

Epstein’s name, however, had been “mistakenly maintained on section 990 tax filings for several years after his resignation”—seven years, to be precise. Given that Black’s foundation used professional accountants and also received legal counsel from white-shoe law firm Paul Weiss, this seemed curious.

So too did the “Confirmation of Resignation of Jeffrey Epstein” document that the Leon Black Family Foundation put forth, signed by Epstein, Black, and Debra Black. According to the document, the foundation has “been unable to locate either the signed original or a signed copy of [Epstein’s] resignation in its records.”

Given that Elysium’s general counsel had attested that Debra Black was the “last signatory” of Epstein’s resignation, the confirmation of which was said to have been “placed in the fire proof cabinet at the offices of Elysium Management,” this seemed perplexing. Also unusual, Debra Black’s name is hand-written—rather than typed, as Black’s and Epstein’s are—under her signature.

But no matter. Black was emphatic that he had been “completely unaware of” and “deeply troubled by” Epstein’s “conduct that is now the subject of the federal criminal charges brought against him.” In a letter Black sent to Apollo investors that same day, he wrote that he and Epstein had had a “limited relationship.”

Just 10 days later, Epstein would be found dead in his jail cell in Lower Manhattan. A reprieve for Black, or so it seemed.

When Epstein incorporated the charity, in 2012, he endowed it with a single dollar. Up until Black made his $10 million donation, three years later, it had only a single dollar still.

Meanwhile, Ganieva had been unable to get U.K. citizenship, and so had returned to New York, where thanks to Black’s $100,000 monthly infusions, she was now living the life of a 1-percenter mother.

She sent her son to the private United Nations International School and hired him private tutors, at a cost of more than $75,000. She also enrolled herself at Cardozo Law School.

On October 15, 2019, two months after Epstein’s death, Ganieva texted Black: “Hi, I would like to have a copy of the NDA I signed. Can you please email it to me.... Thank you.”

Receiving no response, she texted him again the very next day, this time making a series of bold allegations: “Leon. You sexually harassed me. You sex trafficked me, raped me, and eventually blacklisted me. I don’t know how much longer it will take, on my own, to process the pain you caused to me and my family. The least thing you can do is to give me that document that I was forced to sign under duress and wasn’t able to read before signing. Unfortunately I am still tied to you.” But once again, Black ignored her.

Ganieva then followed through on what seemed her implied threat, retaining a lawyer who sent Black a letter saying that he wanted to “investigate certain matters related to [Black’s] prior interactions with [Ganieva]” and that he wanted copies of their agreement. But Black ignored that letter, and the lawyer’s follow-up too.

Denise George, the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, has subpoenaed both Black and Apollo.

Meanwhile, Denise George, the newly appointed attorney general of the Virgin Islands, filed a civil-forfeiture lawsuit against Epstein’s $600 million estate in January 2020, adding as co-defendant Epstein’s Saint Thomas–based Southern Trust, the alleged data-mining business that turned out to be a front for his trafficking.

In August 2020, George took her suit a crucial step further when she subpoenaed both Black and Apollo, ordering them to produce copies of financial statements and tax returns going back to 1998, as well as records of communications between Black and Epstein. In Black’s case, the request covered seven different entities, including Elysium Management and two entities through which he has purchased art.

That October, Apollo announced that it was hiring the Dechert law firm to conduct a “thorough investigation” of Black’s relationship with Epstein. On Apollo’s third-quarter earnings call, Harris discussed the firm’s strong year-to-date fundraising of $18.4 billion. However, he told investors, “Looking forward, we expect that fundraising will slow over the near term as some investors await the findings of the review, which Leon will discuss.”

“I want to begin today by addressing my prior relationship with Jeffrey Epstein,” said Black. “By nature I am a private person, and it runs counter to my nature to speak publicly about personal matters. This has been true ever since living through the press coverage of my father’s suicide 45 years ago. But this matter is now affecting Apollo, which my partners and I spent 30 years building and is also causing deep pain for my family.”

In light of what he now knew, he said, “I deeply regret having had any involvement” with Epstein. But he assured the investors that there was “substantial documentary support for the services provided” by Epstein, and that “all of Epstein’s advice was vetted by leading law firms, accounting firms and other professional advisors.”

“Let me be clear,” he declared. “There has never been an allegation by anyone that I engaged in any wrongdoing because I did not. And any suggestion of blackmail or any other connection to Epstein’s reprehensible conduct is categorically untrue.”

Black, seen here in 2015, has so far refused to hand over many of the documents being requested by the Senate Finance Committee.

Just two days later, The Wall Street Journal published a long hagiographic profile of Apollo’s second-largest shareholder, headlined: A $433 Billion Wall Street Giant Has a Reputation Problem. It’s Josh Harris’s Job to Fix It. Replete with sun-drenched, pensive photographs of the slim, fit Harris posing in Central Park, and also a picture of Black with Epstein at a social event, the article seemed to posit Harris as the rightful inheritor of Black’s prized Apollo throne.

Not that the ambitions of Harris, a divisive figure in the firm, were news to Black. As Black would later claim a legal filing, Harris had asked Black for his job back in 2015, but Black had refused him. (Harris did not respond to Air Mail’s request for comment.)

Now, Black was vulnerable, and Marc Rowan, the other Apollo co-founder, who, together with Harris and Black, made up the company’s three-man executive committee, was out on a months-long “semi-sabbatical.” Had Harris’s moment finally arrived?

Like Black, Harris was aggressive, but he was also a deliberative, even obsessive, analyzer of risk; a former collegiate wrestler; an owner of professional sports teams; and, not unimportantly given the circumstances, a happily married father of five whose life, especially in comparison with Black’s, seemed squeaky clean if not downright ascetic. “Some people play golf. Some people play tennis. I work,” Harris proclaimed. For those on Wall Street, the article seemed a clear signal. Inside Apollo’s 9 West 57th Street headquarters, the battle for succession had begun.

Harris was now working around the clock with media, P.R., and legal advisers to convince the board both that Black needed to be replaced and that he was the man to replace him. Together with his team, Harris monitored not only his own media mentions, search results, and rankings, but also those of Black and Rowan, too. “If things break,” a future Apollo board member who was a proponent of Harris’s e-mailed him, “they break fast. Everything correlates. Consider what happened to Harvey Weinstein’s firm.”

“How can you misplace $5 million?”

By January 23, 2021, Harris’s dream of replacing Leon Black was all but dead. As Black later claimed in a court filing, Harris was communicating with at least two independent Apollo board members to tell them that the Dechert report they were about to receive was “a whitewash, not thorough enough, and inadequate to support its conclusions.”

Around this same time, Apollo board member A. B. Krongard, who was a former executive director of the C.I.A., told Harris that “this was not his first rodeo,” and that, as Black would later characterize the exchange, if he “did not have additional information that was unavailable to the Dechert firm, he should not be attacking the conclusions that the Board was poised to accept.”

On January 25, 2021, Apollo released the results of Dechert’s three-month-long, 60,000-document-deep investigation, which concluded that there was “no evidence that Black or any employee of [his] Family Office or Apollo was involved in any way with Epstein’s criminal activities at any time,” and that there was also “no evidence that Epstein ever introduced Black, or offered to introduce Black, to any underage woman.”

But the report’s revelation that Black had paid Epstein the stunning sum of $158 million came as a shock. However, Apollo’s simultaneous announcement that Black would be retiring as C.E.O. of Apollo on or before his 70th birthday, in July, distracted from it, as did the news that Black’s successor would be Rowan—not Harris.

“There’s an old saying,” a senior private-equity executive explains. “If you go to kill the king, you better succeed, because otherwise you’re going to get killed. But obviously, Josh went and very quickly started a very successful firm, so nobody’s crying for him.”

Nobody was crying for Black either; he was going to remain as Apollo’s chairman. To “address the grievous error of having maintained a professional relationship with Mr. Epstein,” he pledged $200 million to an array of women’s causes—a grand, if vague, gesture.

What follows is Air Mail’s in-depth analysis of the Dechert report. Although written in a matter-of-fact style, the report contains much interesting information that is curious at best.

Black told the Dechert investigators that he believed Epstein had “served his time.” After all, as he understood it, Epstein’s offense was “limited to a single instance of soliciting a 17 year old prostitute” who had “shown Epstein false identification”—in other words, the false narrative that Epstein’s 2008 plea deal with Acosta seemed design to convey.

And besides, Black pointed out, he had maintained his relationships with Michael Milken and Martha Stewart; he believed in “rehabilitation and in people giving second chances.”

In Black’s view, according to Dechert, Epstein was a “confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes.” While he knew that Epstein often employed young, attractive women, Black “did not believe” they were underage. In fact, he had “no recollection of ever seeing Epstein with an underage woman at any time,” a rather surprising claim given Epstein’s well-known, and well-documented, predilection for surrounding himself with very young women and girls.

While Black had previously claimed that he and Epstein had had a “limited relationship,” the Dechert report revealed that Epstein was closely involved in Black’s life. Black introduced Epstein to his family. He visited Epstein at his ranch in Santa Fe, his estate in Palm Beach, his apartment in Paris, and even, on “two occasions,” according to Dechert, on Little St. James, though Black was “accompanied by his wife and one or more of his children on both” trips.

Black had more than 100 meetings scheduled with Epstein from 2013 to 2017, the bulk of which were at Epstein’s home.

The two men also went to “social events together,” and Black “regularly” visited Epstein’s town house for both “one-on-one breakfast meetings” and “social visits,” though what such visits entailed it does not say. As would later be reported, Black had more than 100 meetings scheduled with Epstein from 2013 to 2017, the bulk of which were at Epstein’s home on East 71st Street, which contained not only a designated massage room, but also a “leather room,” a “dungeon,” and a room allegedly filled with security monitors displaying footage from various other rooms, including bathrooms.

Black even “confided in Epstein on personal matters,” into which Dechert, again, apparently did not pry. An Epstein entity called Financial Trust “appears to have invested” in emissions-control company Environmental Solutions Worldwide “alongside Black and certain Black family members.” In fact, according to S.E.C. documents, Epstein’s Financial Trust owned a 6-percent stake in the company, on whose board sit two of Black’s sons.

And yet the question remained: why would a billionaire who can hire the best tax and estate-planning advisers instead choose to take advice from an ex-convict with no professional experience in the field—and pay him $158 million?

The Dechert report states that “Black believed, and witnesses generally agreed, that Epstein provided advice that conferred more than $1 billion and as much as $2 billion or more in value to Black,” though it does not give much in the way of specifics—specifics that the Senate would later request. In the course of its investigation, Dechert interviewed “more than 20 witnesses,” all of whom, it seems, either worked, or had worked, for Black, be it at Apollo, Elysium Management, or Paul Weiss.

But out on Wall Street, beyond Black’s payroll, there is deep skepticism about Epstein’s alleged value-add. “When Ken Griffin makes $10 billion for his investors and he gets $2 billion for it,” a well-known investor tells me, “Griffin shows you what he invested in and how he did it.”

According to Dechert, Epstein came up with a “unique solution” to a “potential estate planning problem” arising out of a 2006 Grantor Retained Annuity Trust, an estate-planning vehicle used by the wealthy to minimize taxes on large financial gifts to family members. But the report said nothing about the nature of the problem with that trust, or about the specifics of Epstein’s solution. (This too would feature in the Senate’s request.)

The report also credits Epstein with “preparing detailed ‘fire drill’ plans” to test how Black’s estate would fare under various adverse circumstances. These plans were deemed by outside counsel to be “more detailed and comprehensive” than “similar plans” they had seen made for other clients, even despite Epstein’s “lack of formal training in law or accounting”—as if his inexperience made his work more impressive rather than just more suspect.

Why would a billionaire who can hire the best tax and estate-planning advisers instead choose to rely on an ex-convict with no professional experience in the field—and pay him $158 million?

However, witnesses described Epstein’s presence at Black’s Elysium Management using unusually loaded language. Epstein was a “disruptive and caustic force within the Family Office,” “an overly demanding overseer,” a “strict taskmaster” who created a “toxic and destructive work environment.”

Using a series of bodily metaphors, Black told the investigators that he wanted to “‘wean’ the Family Office off Epstein so that he was less reliant on Epstein’s services.” And yet, although “he was annoyed by how often Epstein would complain about the ‘cavities’ that Epstein was finding in Black’s ‘mouth’ (the Family Office) … they were all ‘real cavities’ that needed to be filled.”

Epstein and Black’s billing arrangements uncovered by Dechert were perhaps the strangest of all, at first “memorialized in signed and unsigned agreements.” The Senate has requested these documents.

Later payments were “made on an ad hoc basis based on Black’s perceived value of Epstein’s work.” While Epstein told Black that he “generally charged clients $40 million per year for his advice,” Black nonetheless wound up paying him $50 million in 2013 and $70 million in 2014. In 2015, Black paid him $30 million. The next year, nothing. In 2017, Black made his final payment to Epstein: $8 million.

Not mentioned in the report is the simple fact that it is standard in the industry for tax, trust, and estate work to be billed at an hourly rate. As an accountant who serves many ultra-high-net-worth clients tells me, “You cannot be a commissioned salesman in the tax-preparation business. Contingent fees, meaning percentages based on tax savings, are generally not allowed by the I.R.S.”

Near the end of the Dechert report is a section entitled “Black and Epstein Made Charitable Donations at Each Others’ Requests.” Interestingly, in 2016, just one year after Black made his $10 million gift to Gratitude America, Gratitude America made a $225,000 donation to the Melanoma Research Alliance, a charity established by Black and his wife, who is a survivor of the disease.

Given that Gratitude America had received zero contributions from 2015 to 2016 other than Black’s $10 million, Epstein was effectively donating Black’s money back to Black’s charity.

What’s more, according to a footnote of the report’s “Charitable Donations” section, “Dechert’s investigation also found a letter from Gratitude America” thanking Black for an additional $5 million donation. And yet Dechert was unable to locate “any document … or any bank record reflecting such payment.”

“How can you misplace $5 million?” says the accountant. “‘Here’s a letter, go ahead and deduct it,’ that’s what it looks like. The question is: did Black take a tax deduction for the $5 million donation for which there’s no proof other than the letter?”

And then there is the question of timing. Was it merely a coincidence that Black donated $10 million to Epstein’s charity in October 2015, during the same month that he agreed to pay Ganieva millions for her silence?

Among the many revelations in Ganieva’s lawsuit is the fact that, in addition to the $9.5 million that Black paid out as per her NDA, he had also paid her $500,000 on July 30, 2014, just weeks after she alleges he raped her, and then, “not long after that,” he gave her another sum “in excess of $150,000.” This brings the total that Black paid Ganieva to at least $11.2 million, not including his “many, many gifts of cash.”

Meanwhile, according to Ganieva’s complaint, she was not the only paramour whom Black financially supported. There was also, she asserts, a Jane Doe 4, who, just like her, lived in an apartment on the Upper East Side, complete with Steinway piano, and took classes at Columbia University, all courtesy of Black.

When I share the fact that Black spent more than $11 million on Ganieva, and allegedly considerable sums on at least one additional woman, with someone who works in the family office of another New York billionaire, his response is neither disgust nor awe, but simply financial: “Was Black paying gift taxes on all that? Gift taxes are huge.”

A “More Active Role”

Gift taxes are huge. Each year, an individual is allowed to give $17,000 in tax-free gifts per recipient. Beyond that amount, the giver must either pay gift taxes, or apply the taxable amount of their gift against their “unified credit,” which is $12.2 million in total tax-free gifts that an individual is allowed to give over the course of his or her lifetime. So, if an individual is giving another person $1.2 million a year, say, as Black agreed to give Ganieva per her NDA, the giver would either need to pay the I.R.S. $419,000 or apply that sum against his or her unified lifetime credit.

Did Black pay gift taxes on the millions he gave to Ganieva?

According to Dechert, “From 2013 through 2017, Black was under the misconception that his payments to Epstein would be tax deductible (‘sixty cent dollars’) because this is what Epstein had told Black.” But why would Black, an extremely financially sophisticated private-equity titan with an extensive team of legal and tax advisers, simply take Epstein’s word on such an important matter?

“Dechert’s investigation also found a letter from Gratitude America” thanking Black for an additional $5 million donation. And yet Dechert was unable to locate “any document … or any bank record reflecting such payment.”

Even more peculiar, according to Dechert, Epstein “played an important role in resolving a number of potentially significant tax-related issues for Black.”

This work included “the submission of statements” purportedly explaining “an apparent failure to file certain tax forms” for multiple years relating to Black’s interest in the Cayman Islands–based BRH Holdings, a partnership through which Black, Rowan, and Harris hold their ownership interests in Apollo. Epstein was even the one “addressing” Black’s letters to the I.R.S. concerning an audit of the tax years 2012, when Epstein started working for Black, and 2013, when Black began paying him.

Why did Epstein take a “more active role” in Black’s affairs in 2012? Dechert does not say. But in late 2012, economic analysts were predicting that top income-tax rates were about to go up, and in 2013 they did, in order to pay for the Affordable Care Act. This increase occurred at the same time that Bush-era tax cuts for high-income earners were expiring. In fact, according to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, the 2013 tax increase was “the largest since the 1950s” and was “concentrated among the top one percent of earners.”

While this might reasonably explain why Black sought assistance with his taxes at this point in time, it does not shed light on why he would go to Epstein or why he paid him such gargantuan and seemingly arbitrary sums.

Black told Dechert that he finally cut ties with Epstein in 2018 over—what else?—a fee dispute. According to the report, Epstein “claimed full credit” for a particular tax-related transaction on Black’s behalf, on which Epstein had begun work in the fall of 2015, and for which he “demanded payment of $60 million, which would have been 10% of a perceived benefit of $600 million.”

But in this case, Black’s legal counsel not only balked, disputing the idea that this transaction had originated with Epstein, but also the notion that the “perceived savings could accurately be measured and quantified in advance.” (Why such “perceived savings” could be measured and quantified in advance for Epstein’s other tax work, the report does not reveal.) The Senate has requested more information about this dispute over fees.

In the end, according to Dechert, Black paid Epstein $20 million for his alleged work on this particular transaction, one-third of the payment that Epstein “demanded.” Nonetheless, Epstein began barraging Black with e-mails complaining about the “lack of further payment” and “invoke[d] his friendship with Black in those emails, including by referencing personal matters that Black had shared with Epstein in confidence, although there is no evidence that those matters had any relationship to any of Epstein’s criminal activity or to any of Black’s payments to Epstein.”

What were these “personal matters”? The report does not say. And yet, as would be alleged in the lawsuit brought against Black by Ganieva, at least one of these personal matters that Black had shared with Epstein was Ganieva’s 2015 NDA. Could it be that, contrary to Black’s assertion on Apollo’s October 29, 2020, earnings call, Epstein was in fact blackmailing him or, at the very least, attempting to do so? “There is no credible basis for your assertion,” says Black’s spokesperson. “The Dechert report slams the door shut on the irresponsible suggestion you make.”

But as it happens, blackmail via e-mail about an extramarital affair was the very tactic that Epstein tried to employ with Bill Gates in 2017, after the Microsoft founder declined to participate in a multi-billion-dollar charitable fund that Epstein was trying to set up with JPMorgan Chase. As a Gates spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal this past spring, after Epstein “failed repeatedly to draw Mr. Gates beyond [philanthropic] matters, Epstein tried unsuccessfully to leverage a past relationship”—in this case an affair that Gates had had with a young Russian bridge player named Mila Antonova back when she was in her 20s, and he, his 50s—to “threaten Mr. Gates.”

Claims and Counterclaims

In the wake of the Dechert report, artists such as Nan Goldin, who had previously organized the protests against the Sacklers, began calling for Black’s ouster as MoMA’s chairman. But Black did not step down, and the board took no immediate action. After all, in 2018, Black had given the museum $40 million, a gift that had resulted in the museum renaming its theater the “Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center.” Back in 2012, he had even loaned it one of his most prized works for a special exhibition: Edvard Munch’s pastel-on-cardboard The Scream, which he had purchased for a record-breaking $120 million.

After Ganieva went public with her allegations, in 2021, Black announced that he would not be running for re-election as chairman of MoMA’s board.

But on March 17, 2021, Guzel Ganieva issued a kind of scream of her own.

“Although I am a private person,” she said in a series of tweets, “in light of the recent media coverage, I think I have an obligation to make a statement regarding Apollo Global Management’s CEO and Chairman, Leon Black. I was sexually harassed and abused by him for years.

“It started in 2008 when I met with him to discuss work. While he understood my career aspirations, he could not understand me when I refused his sexual advances. I was bullied, manipulated, threatened, and coerced. Similarly, under duress, I was forced to sign an NDA in 2015.

“I am breaking my silence now because I do not want this type of predatory behavior to continue happening to other women. #Metoo #LeonBlack.”

Ganieva had only three followers, but all were well-known investigative journalists from major outlets who covered the #MeToo movement and/or Apollo: Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker, Richard McHugh of NBC, and Matthew Goldstein of The New York Times.

And yet Ganieva’s tweets seemed to attract little attention from anyone—that is, anyone other than Leon Black, Josh Harris, and their fellow Apollo board members, who were now frantic over the effect her allegations might have on Apollo’s stock.

The very next morning, Black texted Ganieva, telling her to call him immediately. But now the balance of power between them had radically shifted. This time, Ganieva rebuffed Black.

That weekend, Black sent a memo to Apollo’s board, announcing his resignation—“effective immediately”—as C.E.O. and chairman, in order to spend more time with his wife, who “faces considerable health challenges,” and to pursue his interests in the arts and philanthropy.

“The last weeks and months have been deeply trying for me and my family, too,” Black wrote. “The relentless public attention and media scrutiny concerning my relationship with Jeffrey Epstein—even though the exhaustive Dechert report concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing on my part—have taken a toll on my health and have caused me to wish to take some time away from the public spotlight.” Just five days later Black announced that when his term as MoMA chair ended in June, he would not be running for re-election. (At this writing, he remains on the museum’s board.)

Epstein began barraging Black with e-mails complaining about the “lack of further payment” and “invoke[d] his friendship with Black in those emails, including by referencing personal matters that Black had shared with Epstein in confidence.”

When the New York Post interviewed Ganieva and published her tweets less than two weeks later, on April 8, Black responded with a rare public statement. His relationship with Ganieva, he told Bloomberg, was a “consensual affair” in which he had “foolishly” engaged. “Any allegation of harassment or any other inappropriate behavior towards her is completely fabricated.”

This was “entirely a personal matter,” he said, that had “nothing to do with Apollo or my decision to step away from the firm.” (Ten months later, in a legal filing, Black would say precisely the opposite: “In response [to the New York Post story] Mr. Black, concerned that the story would not only damage him and his family, but also the company he spent thirty years building, stepped down as Chairman of Apollo.”)

In his interview, Black alleged that he was being “extorted,” having already given Ganieva “substantial monetary payments … in an attempt to spare my family from public embarrassment.” Black then announced that, on the advice of counsel, he had referred the matter to “criminal authorities” and was looking forward to a “thorough investigation”—of Ganieva.

Two months later, Ganieva struck back, filing her lawsuit against him in New York State Supreme Court, and so began the no-longer-just-metaphoric trials of Leon Black.

In her complaint, Ganieva derided Black’s claim that he had paid her off to keep their affair secret as “ridiculous,” noting how they had eaten “countless meals” in five-star restaurants together, gone to “Broadway shows, numerous art shows, museum exhibitions, private parties, the movies,” including a premiere. Black had even “sat beside her while he cheered for the New York Knicks at MSG.”

According to Ganieva, there were “occasions where Ms. Ganieva found herself attending the same social functions as Black and his wife.” But rather than trying to keep the women apart, Black had “openly pursued Ms. Ganieva at these events in front of his wife.” Black, she alleged, not only brought her to his home in Bedford but also to his home in Southampton, where he tried to convince her to sleep with him in the guest house, while his wife was in the main house.

Once, while Ganieva and Black were “either entering or exiting Black’s studio apartment,” which is located across the street from the apartment in which he lives with his wife, they allegedly “encountered [Mrs. Black] on the street as she was walking towards her car. Black did not act surprised or worried in any way.... Surely if Black was worried about his wife or family knowing about his relationship with Ms. Ganieva, he would have chosen an apartment slightly farther away from where they all lived to meet Ganieva.”

Black, Ganieva alleged, had “never once worried about sparing his family from public embarrassment. In fact, he never worried about people associating him with Ms. Ganieva because he enjoyed being seen with her in public. What Black was worried about, however, is being exposed for the sadist that he is.”

According to Ganieva, Black had “abnormal and atypical sexual needs,” and a “violent, abusive, predatory, vindictive and brutal side” that he had “shielded from public view for decades.” In her complaint, an entire section was devoted to Black’s alleged “Violent Sexual Acts Against Ms. Ganieva,” much of which was redacted.

“During many, but not all, of [Ganieva’s] sexual experiences with Black, he REDACTED on Ms. Ganieva in order to achieve sexual arousal and gratification,” read one claim. Elsewhere in the complaint, three entirely redacted paragraphs were followed by these words: “The first time Black did this, Ms. Ganieva had no idea what was happening—REDACTED. On some occasions, the pain was so extreme that Ms. Ganieva believes she lost consciousness or fainted. This practice of physically hurting her, REDACTED was something from which Black derived pleasure and arousal, and knew caused Ms. Ganieva pain and distress.”

According to Ganieva, Black had “abnormal and atypical sexual needs,” and a “violent, abusive, predatory, vindictive and brutal side” that he had “shielded from public view for decades.”

In legal filings, Black responded by calling Ganieva a “fabulist” and asserting that he had recordings that not only proved she had extorted him, but also cast extreme doubt over her rape allegations, and disputed her claims that he was sexually abusive.

“From the very beginning, I’ve made clear that Ms. Ganieva’s allegations against me were false and there was no basis for this suit,” Black said in a statement after the case was dismissed. “Given how Ms. Ganieva was able to manipulate the legal system and the media, I am gratified that the truth has come out and justice has been finally done.”

In October 2021, Harris, who stepped down from his role at Apollo and its board, sold 6.6 million shares of Apollo stock, 18 percent of his holdings. That same month, Black, in a federal-court complaint, declared that Ganieva’s case was “not the work of one woman,” and sued not only Ganieva and Wigdor but also a group of men whom he initially referred to as “John Does 1-3.”

John Doe 3 was alleged to be “the Funder,” Black’s not particularly well-disguised pseudonym for Harris. And then there were “the Flacks,” one of which was Rubenstein, the P.R. firm helmed by Steven Rubenstein, which has also represented Apollo. According to Black, Rubenstein, together with Ganieva and her lawyers at Wigdor, had conspired against him in “an unholy alliance,” in order to “humiliate his family, damage his reputation; threaten his ability to do business; and even suggest he is guilty of a crime when they know he is not.”

“All of them,” Black alleged, “were paid (or promised to be paid) by Mr. Harris,” which for Ganieva, he noted, included “the millions she might still be receiving had she not joined forces with the other defendants to try to get even more from Mr. Black—or destroy him in the process.”

Black further accused the group of racketeering—invoking the RICO statute, a law that is rarely brought to bear against anyone other than the Mafia. But he saved his most pointed and personal attacks for his Apollo co-founder.

“Like Shakespeare’s Iago,” Black alleged, Harris, having seen his “long-held dream of becoming CEO or Co-CEO crushed … turned his wrath on his mentor and leader. [Harris] sought to undermine Dechert’s conclusions with the Board, engaged in a whisper campaign about Mr. Black with investors, and undertook a press and legal strategy to try and salvage one last chance at the promotion he had always wanted.”

Harris denied the claims (as did Wigdor and Ganieva), and responded in a motion to dismiss Black’s complaint, “Incredibly, Black continues to advance the false narrative that Harris is responsible for his problems.... Black’s apparent issue with Harris is that Harris acted in Apollo’s best interests when he responded to the crisis Black created.”

Amid all the claims and counterclaims, there appeared to be unusual behavior, including the fact that not long after Ganieva tweeted her accusations against Black, two private investigators bearing fake law-enforcement badges arrived at her doorstep and told her she should sue Black.

Then, in a conference between the opposing counsel, one of Black’s lawyers allegedly offered that he might drop Wigdor as a defendant if Ganieva’s lawyer would admit that Harris was behind Ganieva’s lawsuit. Ganieva’s lawyer maintained that Harris wasn’t behind it or funding it, and reported the conversation to the judge. Subsequently, the attorney who allegedly proposed the deal withdrew from the case.

Last year, on June 22, Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter to Apollo C.E.O. Marc Rowan seeking “all documents related to” the Dechert report, among other information. “Despite not being a certified public accountant or licensed tax attorney, it appears that Epstein was paid an amount that far exceeded what Black paid other professional advisors,” Wyden noted, “including some of the most high-priced legal counsel in the nation. In light of Epstein’s role in a sprawling human trafficking scheme, it is important to understand why Epstein’s compensation arrangement was substantially different.”

Just eight days later, on June 30, Black’s RICO lawsuit was dismissed on the grounds that, while the judge couldn’t entirely rule out the possibility that Harris had funded Ganieva’s lawsuit, Black had no hard evidence for his claims. (Black appealed the dismissal but it was affirmed by a federal court of appeals.)

But no matter. Black filed a new suit in New York State Supreme Court, this time suing only Ganieva and Wigdor. The case is pending.

On July 21, the same day that news broke of Black’s $62.5 million settlement with the Virgin Islands, Harris was out on FedEx Field in Summerfield, Maryland, having a celebratory press conference with the Washington Commanders NFL team that he had just purchased. That Harris was enjoying one of his life’s highest points at the very same time that Black, it would seem, was contending with one of his lowest—well, Harris probably couldn’t have planned it any better himself.

Unanswered Questions

Now, with the four-year anniversary of Epstein’s August 10 death approaching, many questions about his and Black’s close relationship remain unanswered.

As part of its lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase, which is scheduled to go to trial this October, the Virgin Islands has revealed that it has possession of video footage from Epstein’s town house. Who or what is in that footage it has not yet disclosed. JPMorgan has publicly called the USVI’s lawsuit “misdirected” and “not well founded.”

Meanwhile, down in Palm Beach, as part of a lawsuit brought by The Palm Beach Post, an appeals court unanimously ruled that a lower-court judge was mistaken when he said that he lacked the authority to release Epstein’s 2006 grand-jury proceedings, clearing the way for them to be made public.

In a July 24 letter, Wyden gave Black, who has resisted handing over many of the requested documents, a September 1 deadline.

“It’s ballsy of Black to refuse the Senate,” says a former prosecutor with experience investigating financial fraud, who notes that if Black does not comply, the Senate’s next step could be to compel him to answer their questions via subpoena. “Black’s trying to make everything take longer, so it’s less likely anything will happen.”

But now, with so many moving pieces—not just the open Senate investigation, but also the pending sexual-abuse lawsuits, and the possibility that more women may come forward—everything could start to change.

In the wake of all this, prosecutors could in theory begin re-examining the reports of rape that have already been made to them.

“Decision-makers in all of these matters are watching the other ones,” says the former prosecutor. “It’s conceivable that nothing comes of some of it. But when there are so many possible paths for accountability … you have to imagine that something will happen.”

Johanna Berkman is a Writer at Large at AIR MAIL. You can read her profile of Jumi Bello, which won the 2023 Deadline Club award for Arts Reporting, here