Tue. May 24th, 2022

Leon Black accused his former top lieutenant Josh Harris of exploiting a scandal in which the late Jeffrey Epstein was involved in an “attempt. . . coup and smear campaign ”in an effort to succeed Black as CEO of Apollo Global Management.

The claims, which a Harris spokesman described as “independent,” were set out in a motion filed Tuesday in New York State Court.

The filing is part of Black’s attempt to obtain phone records of his former mistress Guzel Ganieva, who filed a civil lawsuit in which he accused the billionaire of sexually abusing her during their relationship and then damaging her reputation by publicly accusing her of extortion.

Lawyers for Black, Apollo’s former chief, had previously asked for details about any contact Ganieva’s lawyers may have had with businessmen including Harris, who until last year was one of Apollo’s top three partners. But in Tuesday’s submission, they went further, claiming Harris wanted to expel Black from Apollo.

Their submission describes a shaky atmosphere at the top levels of the $ 481 billion group during Black’s last months in power. Harris has “under-scraped [his] relationship “with Black, who was” first among equals “in Apollo’s ruling trio, the lawyers in the filing said.

In 2020, they added, Harris’ found leverage and exploited it in an attempt to oust Mr. Black to expel: allegations that [Black] paid financial management fees to the convicted criminal and notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. ” Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking with minors.

According to Black’s attorneys, Harris hired Steven Rubenstein, a public relations manager who was at Apollo at the time, to develop “talking points” about Epstein and to “help unlock harmful stories about Mr. Black.”

“Harris. . . saw an opportunity to take over from Apollo, ”they added.

A representative for Black declined to comment to the Financial Times.

In a statement to the Financial Times, a Harris spokesman said the claims in Black’s submission were “unfounded, untrue, and – frankly – untouched”.

The statement added: “Mr. Harris does not know Ms Ganieva, has never met or spoken to her or anyone representing her, has no financial or any other transactions with her or her representatives, and has no involvement of any kind in the submission of any claims by her. ”

Evan Farber, a lawyer for Rubenstein, said in a statement that “Mr Rubenstein and his firm have had absolutely no relationship with Ms Ganieva, in the past, present, formal or informal.”

Farber added: “They have never met or communicated with her or any of her representatives. This, and the rest of the claims made by Mr. “Black’s attorneys filed a conspiracy, still evolving conspiracy theory, full of false information and not based on reality.”

Apollo said it had nothing to do with the lawsuits between Black and Ganieva, adding: “This is a completely personal matter.”

Swart announced his departure as Apollo’s CEO last January, after a investigation by the law firm Dechert found he had paid $ 158 million to Epstein over a five-year period ending in 2017. His successor was named Marc Rowan, another senior Apollo partner who had been Harris’s counterpart for years.

According to Black’s filing, Harris became “furious” about that decision, and “continued with a malicious campaign to take down Mr Black”.

Ganieva filed her lawsuit against Black last June. “Her false claims are being shaped and reinforced by Mr Rubenstein – the same PR guru who has already done Mr Harris’s job of spreading rumors about Mr Black’s alleged sexual misconduct,” Black’s lawyers claimed.

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