By Steve Goldstein
Leon Black, the founder of private-equity group Apollo Global Management, on Thursday apologized for his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier.
Epstein last year was indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges and died by suicide in jail, according to the New York City medical examiner.
On a conference call to discuss Apollo Global Investors /zigman2/quotes/203829595/composite APO -0.16% results, Black maintained that his business relationship with Epstein did not involve the firm. Epstein provided estate planning and philanthropic advice and other such services, according to Black. The New York Times reported Black had paid Epstein at least $50 million after his 2008 conviction for soliciting prostitution from a teenaged girl.
Black said he met Epstein around 1996. “At the time, Epstein was advising prominent clients on state tax matters, and his network of relationships included luminaries I respected and admired, including several heads of state, heads of prominent families in finance, a U.S. Treasury secretary, accomplished business leaders, Nobel laureates, acclaimed academicians and noted philanthropists,” he said.
Epstein has been photographed with Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump and Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Famed lawyer and Harvard law-school professor Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew are among other notables known to have associated with Epstein.
Black said he first became aware of Epstein’s criminal conduct when it was reported he was investigated by Florida and federal prosecutors in 2006. He said he regretted giving Epstein a second chance.
“This was a terrible mistake. I wish I could go back in time and change that decision, but I cannot. Had I known any of the facts about Epstein’s sickening and repulsive conduct, which I learned in late 2018, more than a year after I stopped working with them, I never would have had anything to do with him,” said Black.
He said any allegation of “blackmail or any other connection to Epstein’s reprehensible conduct” is untrue.
The company is conducting an independent review of Black’s relationship with Epstein, which Apollo’s CFO, Martin Kelly, said he hoped would be completed by the end of the year. James Zelter, the firm’s co-president, said Apollo clients “support and embrace the process.”
Apollo’s total assets under management stood at $433 billion through the end of the third quarter. Its stock has dropped 25% over the last three months.