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Leon Black Admits Paying Woman to Keep Affair Quiet, Denies It Led to Sudden Apollo Exit

The allegations came days before Black’s departure as CEO and chairman of the firm he co-founded.

Leon Black, the former chief executive and chairman of Apollo Global Management, admitted that he paid a woman to keep an affair quiet, but denied that the woman’s allegations of abuse affected his early departure from the firm in March. 

In a statement issued to The New York Post  Thursday evening, Black denied allegations made by the woman, Guzel Ganieva, on Twitter just days before Apollo announced Black’s sudden departure. 

On March 17, the woman alleged that beginning in 2008, “I was sexually harassed and abused by him for years.”

“I was bullied, manipulated, threatened, and coerced,” she wrote. “Similarly, under duress, I was forced to sign an NDA in 2015.”

Five days after the allegations appeared on Twitter, on March 22, Apollo announced that Black would step down as chairman of the firm. Black, who co-founded Apollo in 1990, had previously said he would retire as CEO in June, but remain as chairman. He said last month he was retiring from both positions to “focus on my family, my wife Debra’s and my health issues, and my many other interests."

The Post reported that at least four members of Apollo’s board had become aware of the allegations before Black announced his departure.

“I foolishly had a consensual affair with Ms. Ganieva that ended more than seven years ago,” Black said in the statement, as reported Thursday evening by the Post. “Any allegation of harassment or any other inappropriate behavior towards her is completely fabricated. The truth is that I have been extorted by Ms. Ganieva for many years and I made substantial monetary payments to her, based on her threats to go public concerning our relationship, in an attempt to spare my family from public embarrassment.”

Black added that his relationship with the woman is a “personal matter” and had nothing to do with his decision to depart from Apollo. He added that he has referred the matter to “the criminal authorities” at the recommendation of his counsel and welcomes “a thorough investigation.”

[II Deep Dive: Apollo’s Leon Black Paid Jeffrey Epstein Millions. Investors Are Privately Judging Him.]

Ganieva did not return Institutional Investor’s request for comment. 

A spokeswoman for Apollo told II that Ganieva was never employed by the firm and declined to comment further.

Several asset allocators put Apollo on notice since Black’s reputation was tarnished by his financial ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. In January, Apollo revealed that Black paid Epstein $158 million for financial advice from 2012 through 2017, despite knowing that Epstein had pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from an underage girl in Florida in 2008.

A representative for the $440-billion California Public Employees' Retirement System declined to comment on the new allegations against Black and whether it will impact CalPERS future investments with Apollo. According to CalPERS’ most recent annual investment report, the pension fund has more than $538 million invested with Apollo across its various funds.

Representatives for various other funds, including the California State Teachers' Retirement System, the Florida State Board of Administration, State of Wisconsin Investment Board and the New York State Common Retirement Fund, with stakes in Apollo did not return II’s request for comment.

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