Black was already on track to step down as CEO of Apollo at the end of July when he unexpectedly announced on March 22 that he would be stepping down as CEO and chairman, effective immediately. .
Black – whom Apollo revealed earlier this year had paid millions to dead pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein following the latter’s 2008 convictions for procuring a minor for the purpose of prostitution – cited the health of his wife and children. own health problems for the sudden change of plans.
Neither Black nor Apollo mentioned at the time that in the days leading up to the resignation, at least four of the 12 members of the Apollo board had become aware of a series of but explosive tweets from Güzel Ganieva, a former model who claimed to have been “forced to sign an NDA in 2015” over allegations that Black “harassed and sexually abused her,” according to sources familiar with the situation.
In a statement to the Post, Black admitted he knew Ganieva, but denied acting inappropriately towards her.
“I foolishly had a consensual affair with Ms. Ganieva that ended over seven years ago,” Black said in her statement. “Any allegation of harassment or any other inappropriate behavior towards him is completely fabricated.”
He also denied that his allegations influenced his decision to leave the company faster than expected. In January, Black announced he would remain chairman after stepping down as CEO on July 31.
“This is an entirely personal question; this matter has nothing to do with Apollo or my decision to withdraw from the company.
Black added that he believed he was “extorted” by Ganieva for allegedly “making substantial monetary payments to her, based on his threats to go public with our relationship, in an attempt to spare my family from the public embarrassment ”.
The billionaire said he had referred the case to “criminal authorities” on the recommendation of his lawyer and welcomed a “full investigation”.
It is still unclear whether any of Black’s allegations against Ganieva would amount to criminal conduct and there is no indication that any charges have been laid or are being investigated.
Ganieva did not immediately respond to Black’s extortion allegations. Ganieva said that in 2015 she signed a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, to keep her silent “under duress,” but did not specify the terms or whether she received a monetary benefit.
“Although I am a private person, in light of recent media coverage, I believe I have an obligation to make a statement regarding Apollo Global Management CEO and Chairman Leon Black,” the first began. of his tweets of March 17. “I have been sexually harassed and abused by him for years.
“It started in 2008 when I met him to discuss my work,” Ganieva continued. “While he understood my career aspirations, he couldn’t understand me when I refused his sexual advances. I have been intimidated, manipulated, threatened and coerced.
Ganieva refused to provide a copy of the NDA. A second source, claiming to be aware of the matter, agreed that an NDA had been signed but declined to give further details.
NDAs have become a flashpoint in the #MeToo movement, with commentators claiming they have become a tool that protects powerful men from allegations of abuse.
“I’m breaking my silence now because I don’t want this type of predatory behavior to continue to happen to other women,” Ganieva said in her third and final tweet, which as of Thursday was still posted on Twitter.
In an exclusive interview with The Post earlier this week, ahead of Black’s extortion allegations, Ganieva alleged that Black’s abuse “had occurred over a long period of time and was tragic. “
Ganieva, who emigrated from Russia to the United States, said she met Black at a party in Manhattan in 2008 when she was 25. He tried for a while to help her find 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 further details about her allegations.
Among the directors who had seen the tweets, the sources said, was Jay Clayton, the former head of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, who was appointed independent director of Apollo in an overhaul of January aimed at improving Apollo’s corporate governance.
Clayton did not return a request for comment. An Apollo spokeswoman declined to comment and noted that Black was no longer with the company.
Black’s sudden departure from Apollo has been widely reported.
In January, an investigation for Apollo by law firm Dechert found that he paid Epstein $ 158 million for tax advice and estate planning services between 2013 and 2017. After the investigation closed, Black said about his involvement with Epstein that he was only guilty of bad judgment in his dealings with Epstein, and that he had done nothing wrong.
« [There was no] proof that I have been implicated in Mr. Epstein’s egregious conduct or engaged in wrongdoing of any kind, ”he said in a letter to Apollo investors.
Four days later, on March 26, Black said he would not stand for re-election as president of the Museum of Modern Art when his term ended on June 30.