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MoMA Chair Leon Black to Depart as CEO of Apollo Following Probe into Epstein Ties

Leon Black, chairman of the board of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is stepping down from his role as CEO of private equity firm Apollo Global Management, reports the Wall Street Journal. His departure from the multibillion-dollar entity follows an independent investigation into his financial ties to disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in prison in 2019.

The investigation, which was conducted at Black’s behest by law firm Dechert LLP, found no evidence of wrongdoing but did uncover $158 million in payments from Black to Epstein between 2012 and 2017, as well as $30 million in loans from Black to Epstein, only $10 million of which had been repaid. The amount was significantly more than had been expected.

In the course of the investigation, Epstein was found to have given Black “legitimate advice” in relation to financial matters, including those related to Black’s tremendous art collection. The advice was said to have led to roughly $2 billion tax savings for Black.

Black’s board chairmanship at MoMA sparked protests last March, when demonstrators occupied PS1 MoMA on the final day of the exhibition “Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011.” Protestors cited Apollo’s investment in Constellis Holdings, a defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater but which rebranded following the 2007 Nisour Square massacre, in which seventeen unarmed Iraqi civilians were shot by the company’s employees in Baghdad. 

The former Apollo CEO was subpoenaed back in August by the US Virgin Islands as the territory sought to discover the sources of Epstein’s wealth. Black failed to sever ties with Epstein when the latter was arrested in 2008 on charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor, instead donating $10 million through his foundation to one of Epstein’s charitable organizations and anonymously donating $5 million to the MIT Media Lab at Epstein’s urging, the New York Times reported.

“I have advised the Apollo board that I will retire as CEO on or before my seventieth birthday in July,” said Epstein on Monday, noting that he planned to stay with the company as chairman. Cofounder Marc Rowan will assume the role of Apollo CEO.

Black additionally pledged $200 million of his family’s money to women’s initiatives.