After news broke that billionaire investor Leon Black had paid convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein at least $50 million, Black has written his clients, including Pennsylvania’s two multi-billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded public pension plans, to apologize.
Black, a founder of Apollo Global Management, sent the letter — a copy of which was obtained by The Inquirer — on Monday after the New York Times reported the extent of Black’s relationship with and patronage of Epstein.
“It is true that I paid Mr. Epstein millions of dollars annually for his work, which he provided from 2012 to 2017,” Black told clients. He said he “never tried to conceal” that Epstein " provided professional services to entities affiliated with my family regarding estate planning, tax and philanthropic endeavors."
Black didn’t explain why he chose to pay tens of millions to Epstein, a college dropout with a criminal record, when as a billionaire investment professional Black had his pick of qualified, credentialed experts.
He also wrote that Epstein had never done any work for Apollo.
Black acknowledged in the letter having "traveled with Mr. Epstein to Boston to meet with several prominent Harvard professors, as part of my family’s philanthropic efforts. Two of my children traveled with me and joined the meetings.
“On a separate occasion, my family and I made a short visit to Mr. Epstein’s private island and had a picnic lunch with him while on a family holiday nearby. As the [Times] story notes, both instances were isolated and brief and, in each case, I was accompanied by members of my immediate family. From time to time, I also met with Mr. Epstein at his townhouse in New York City, because that is where he conducted business.”
Black also said he and at least three of the four largest U.S. banks — JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo — along with France-based BNP Paribas, among others, are cooperating with the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands, Denise N. George, “as third-party witnesses in a civil investigation of Mr. Epstein’s businesses. I, of course, intend to cooperate fully with this and any other inquiry.”
Despite his choice of advisers, Black defended his, and Apollo’s " integrity, decency and adherence to the highest moral and ethical principles." He added that “with the benefit of hindsight” and fuller knowledge of "Mr. Epstein’s despicable conduct more than 15 years ago — I deeply regret having had any involvement with him.
In a previous letter last summer, Black, whose personal worth is estimated by Forbes at $9 billion, had told investors he and Epstein had a “limited relationship” and consulted “from time to time” on personal financial matters.
But on Monday, the Times reported that Black had wired Epstein at least $50 million in the years after Epstein’s 2008 criminal conviction for soliciting prostitution from a teenaged girl. But he avoided a federal conviction through a non-prosecution agreement.
The newspaper quoted a spokesperson for Black as saying that Black’s relationship with Epstein ended in 2018 in a “fee dispute.”
A decade earlier, Epstein had pleaded guilty in Florida to a state charge of prostitution with a minor, and served 13 months in jail in a confidential plea agreement with federal prosecutors. After additional reporting by the Miami Herald quoted dozens of young women accusing Epstein of abusive behavior, federal prosecutors in New York charged Epstein with sex trafficking in July 2019. His death the next month in a Manhattan jail cell was ruled a suicide.
In Pennsylvania, the taxpayer-funded Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System and Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System have invested nearly $1 billion in Apollo’s real estate, corporate-buyout and other funds, according to their most recent annual reports.
At Apollo, Black’s partners include Josh Harris, lead owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and an investor in other pro sports teams.
For its services, Apollo collected a total of $7.2 million in fees from the pension funds last year, not counting Apollo’s share in fund profits, according to reports from both systems.
Apollo was previously a manager for the Philadelphia pension system, but was terminated in 2016 for poor performance, city officials said at that time.