Billionaire Leon Black is opening up about his relationship with the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Black controlled Caesars Entertainment more than a decade ago through his Apollo Global Management.
Apollo acquired Caesars Entertainment along with TPG Capital in 2008 for a staggering $30 billion. The buy couldn’t have come at a poorer time, as the worst economic depression since the 1930s soon followed.
Black, worth an estimated $7.4 billion by Forbes, kept a close relationship with Epstein throughout his firm’s control of Caesars. During Apollo’s third-quarter earnings call yesterday, the billionaire opened up about his dealings with the convicted sex offender.
Knowing all that I have learned in the past two years about Epstein’s reprehensible and despicable conduct, I deeply regret having had any involvement with him,” Black told investors and analysts on the call. “With the benefit of hindsight, working with him was a horrible mistake on my part.”
Epstein died by suicide inside the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan in August of 2019. At the time, Epstein was facing federal charges of sex trafficking minors in Florida and New York. Authorities allege that he, along with his longtime confidant Ghislaine Maxwell, procured and sexually trafficked underage girls.
The charges against Epstein were dismissed following his death. They’re ongoing for Maxwell.
Second Chance Mistake
Black says Epstein never worked directly with or for Apollo. Instead, he claims Epstein only assisted him on personal matters.
The Apollo cofounder states Epstein helped him with his family partnership and associated entities involving real estate planning, tax structuring, and philanthropic endeavors. Epstein, Black says, also abetted his purchasing and insuring of artworks.
I paid him millions of dollars annually for that work,” Black conceded. The New York Times reported earlier this month that the figure could have been as much as $75 million.
Black says he gave Epstein a second chance following his guilty plea in 2008 of procuring an underage girl for prostitution.
“In 2009, after being released from jail, Epstein returned to his previous financial advisory activities and once again began working and associating with many prominent individuals, spanning the worlds of finance, academia, science, technology, philanthropy, business, and government,” Black explained. “The distinguished reputations of these individuals gave me misplaced comfort in retaining Epstein’s services.”
“I decided to give Epstein a second chance. This was a terrible mistake,” Black concluded.
Apollo William Hill Bid
Earlier this fall, Apollo was in the bidding war to acquire UK and US sportsbook operator William Hill. Caesars, however, warned the sports betting behemoth to stay clear of Apollo.
Caesars Entertainment threatened to terminate its joint venture with William Hill in the US if the book agreed to an Apollo acquisition. William Hill sided with Caesars and ultimately agreed to be acquired by the casino giant for $3.7 billion.
For the deal to be completed, 75 percent of William Hill investors must approve of the offer at a later shareholder meeting.