Who’s really Leon Black, the billionaire advised by Jeffrey Epstein?
The New York Times revealed on 23 August that US billionaire Leon Black was summoned to appear in the US Virgin Islands to clear up his business ties with financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of sexually abusing minors and was found dead in his cell in 2019.Epstein was one of the first trustees (agents) of the Debra and Leon Black Family Foundation, launched in 1997, and has continued to provide Black with advice on tax and real estate strategy.Unlike other business tycoons, Black did not cut off contact with the sex offender after he was convicted in 2008 of inciting prostitution of minors.
A Wall Street wolf
Legend has it that after his father’s suicide in 1975, young Leon vowed to become the richest man in the world, a promise almost kept. At 69, at the head of a fortune estimated by Forbes at $8.2 billion, he is one of Wall Street’s most formidable financiers. After a career as an investment banker that began in 1977 with Drexel Burnham Lambert, he co-founded the private equity firm Apollo Global Management in 1990. His specialty? His specialty? Buying distressed companies at low prices through loans and imposing drastic austerity measures on them before selling them at a high profit.
Since 2018, Leon Black has been chairman of the board of MoMA, the prestigious New York museum with one of the world’s finest collection s of modern art, and he donated 33.5 million euros to finance the museum’s expansion. In early 2020, however, all went wrong.Apollo Global Management owns the former private military company Blackwater, renamed Constellis Holdings, which was implicated in the deaths of Iraqi civilians in 2007.
A bulimic collector
As soon as a work reaches $100 million, all eyes turn to Leon Black, one of the few private collectors capable of bidding at this price level.According to the Wall Street Journal, he bought the pastel of the Scream, by Edvard Munch, which sold for nearly 100 million euros in 2012 at Sotheby’s. The same year, he bought a drawing by Raphael for 36.6 million euros. His collection also includes works by Van Gogh, Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse and Chinese bronzes.