Leon Black’s surprise exit from the helm of Apollo Global Management last month came just days after several directors on the board of the private equity giant heard of allegations of sexual harassment against him by a woman he claimed was trying to trick him. shaking because of a ‘consensual affair’, ”The Post learned.
Black was already on track to step down as Apollo’s CEO at the end of July when he unexpectedly announced on March 22 that he would be leaving as CEO and Chairman with immediate effect.
Black – who revealed to Apollo earlier this year that he had paid millions to dead pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein after his 2008 convictions for obtaining an underage girl for prostitution – cited his wife’s ailing health and his own health concerns for the sudden change. in plans.
Neither Black nor Apollo mentioned at the time that in the days leading up to the resignation at least four of Apollo’s 12 board members had become aware of a series of little noticed but explosive tweets from Güzel Ganieva, a former model who claimed “forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement in 2015” over allegations that Black was “sexually harassing and abusing her,” according to sources close to the situation.
In a statement to The Post, Black acknowledged knowing Ganieva, but denied acting inappropriately towards her.
“I foolishly had a consensual affair with Ms. Ganieva that ended more than seven years ago,” Black said in his statement. “Any allegation of harassment or other improper conduct towards her is completely fabricated.”
He also denied that her allegations influenced his decision to exit the company faster than planned. In January, Black had indicated that he would remain as chairman after stepping down as CEO on July 31.
“This is entirely a personal matter; this issue has nothing to do with Apollo or my decision to leave the company. “
Black added that he believes he was “extorted” by Ganieva for allegedly “making significant monetary payments to her, based on her threats to go public about our relationship, in an effort to save my family from public embarrassment. . “
The billionaire said he had referred the case to “the criminal authorities” on the recommendation of his counsel and welcomed “a thorough investigation”.
It remains unclear whether any of Black’s allegations against Ganieva would amount to criminal behavior, and there is no indication that any charges have been filed or are pending.
Ganieva did not immediately respond to Black’s extortion claims. Ganieva said she signed a nondisclosure agreement or nondisclosure agreement in 2015 intended to keep her quiet “under duress,” but did not comment on the terms or whether she received a monetary benefit.
“Although I am a private individual, I believe that, in light of recent media coverage, I have an obligation to make a statement about the CEO and Chairman of Apollo Global Management, Leon Black,” began the speech. first of her tweets on March 17. “I was sexually harassed and abused by him for years.
“It started in 2008 when I met him to talk about work,” Ganieva continued. “Although he understood my career aspirations, he couldn’t understand me when I refused his sexual advances. I was bullied, manipulated, threatened and forced. “
Ganieva declined to provide a copy of the nondisclosure agreement. A second source claiming knowledge of the case agreed that a nondisclosure agreement had been signed but declined to elaborate.
NDAs became a flashpoint in the #MeToo movement, with commentators claiming they had become a tool protecting powerful men from abuse allegations.
“I’m breaking my silence now because I don’t want this kind of predatory behavior to happen to other women,” Ganieva said in her third and final tweet, which continued to be posted on Twitter as of Thursday.
In an exclusive interview with The Post earlier this week, ahead of Black’s allegations of extortion, Ganieva claimed that Black’s abuse “went on for a long period of time and it was tragic.”
Ganieva, who immigrated to the US from Russia, said she met Black at a party in Manhattan in 2008 when she was 25 years old. He tried for some time to help her get a job, she said, but claimed he wanted favors in return.
Ganieva declined to speak more specifically about her allegations, saying she was not yet comfortable sharing additional details about her claims.
Among the executives who had heard of the tweets, the sources said were Jay Clayton, the former chief of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, who was addressed as Apollo’s lead independent director in a January overhaul aimed at bolstering Apollo’s corporate governance. improve.
Clayton did not respond to a request for comment. An Apollo spokeswoman declined to comment, noting that Black is no longer with the company.
Black’s sudden departure from Apollo was widely reported.
In January, an investigation for Apollo by the law firm Dechert found that he had paid Epstein $ 158 million for tax advice and estate planning services between 2013 and 2017. After the investigation concluded, Black said of his involvement with Epstein that he was the only one. guilty of poor judgment in his dealings with Epstein, and that he had done nothing wrong.
[There was no] evidence that I was in any way involved in Mr. Epstein’s flagrant behavior or involved in any misconduct, ”he said in a letter to Apollo investors.
Four days later, on March 26, Black said he would not run for re-election as president of the Museum of Modern Art if his term ends on June 30.