Leon Black has accused his former top lieutenant Josh Harris of exploiting a scandal involving the late Jeffrey Epstein to launch an “attempt. . . coup and smear campaign” in an effort to succeed Black as managing director of Apollo Global Management.
The allegations, which a spokesperson for Harris called “lopsided,” were detailed in a motion filed Tuesday in New York state court.
The dossier is part of Black’s bid to obtain phone records from his former mistress Guzel Ganieva, who has filed a civil lawsuit accusing the billionaire of sexually abusing her during their relationship and then damaging her reputation by publicly accusing him of extortion.
Lawyers for Black, the former Apollo chief, have previously demanded details of any contact Ganieva’s lawyers may have had with businessmen, including Harris, who until last year was the one of Apollo’s three main partners. But in Tuesday’s filing, they went further, saying Harris was seeking to oust Black from Apollo.
Their filing describes a turbulent atmosphere at the highest levels of the $481 billion group during Black’s last few months at the helm. Harris had become “irritated under [his] relationship” with Black, who was “first among equals” in the ruling Apollo triumvirate, the attorneys in the filing said.
In 2020, they added, Harris “found and exploited leverage to try to oust Mr. Black: allegations that [Black] had paid a financial management fee to convicted felon and notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking of minors.
According to Black’s attorneys, Harris hired Steven Rubenstein, a public relations executive who was under contract with Apollo at the time, to develop “talking points” on Epstein and “help seed harmful stories about Mr. Black.” “.
“Harris. . . saw an opportunity to take over at Apollo,” they added.
A representative for Black declined to comment to the Financial Times.
In a statement to the Financial Times, a representative for Harris said the claims in Black’s filing “are groundless, false and – frankly – out of whack.”
The statement added: “Mr. Harris does not know Ms. Ganieva, has never met or spoken with her or anyone representing her, has any financial or other relationship with her or her representatives, and had no involvement whatsoever in the filing. of any claims by it.
Evan Farber, attorney for Rubenstein, said in a statement that “Mr. Rubenstein and his firm have had absolutely no relationship with Ms. Ganieva, past, present, formal or informal.”
Farber added: ‘They have never met or communicated with her or any of her representatives. These, and the rest of the claims filed by Mr. Black’s lawyers, offer a concocted and ever-evolving conspiracy theory filled with misinformation and not grounded in reality.
Apollo said it had nothing to do with the lawsuits between Black and Ganieva and added, “It’s an entirely personal matter.”
Black announced his departure as chief executive of Apollo last January, after an investigation by law firm Dechert revealed he paid Epstein $158 million over a five-year period ending in 2017. His successor was named Marc Rowan, another senior Apollo partner who for years had been Harris’ peers.
According to Black’s filing, Harris became “enraged” by the decision and “pursued a malicious campaign to bring down Mr. Black.”
Ganieva filed her lawsuit against Black last June. “His false allegations are seeded and amplified by Mr. Rubenstein – the same public relations guru who once did Mr. Harris’s job of spreading rumors about Mr. Black’s alleged sexual misconduct,” attorneys for Mr. Black claimed. Black.