Leon Black Exits Apollo Four Months Early
March 22, 2021
Leon Black, board chair of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, this morning stepped down from his post as chief executive of private equity firm Apollo Asset Management. The move comes a little more than four months ahead of his planned departure, which was to have taken place by July 31 and which was spurred by revelations regarding his ties to the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Black, citing a need to attend to his health and to that of his wife, further offered the surprising news that he would additionally abandon the post of chairman, which he had announced back in January that he would keep. He will remain the company’s majority shareholder.
The revelation is the latest in a series of events that have unfolded since an independent investigation, conducted at Black’s behest, into his ties to Epstein. Though no evidence of wrongdoing was discovered, the news that Black had continued to pay Epstein for financial advice, and to donate large sums to organizations run by or suggested by Epstein even after the latter’s 2008 arrest for soliciting prostitution from a minor, did not sit well with many.
Black in January pledged $200 million of his family’s money to women’s initiatives. Despite this, artists have been lobbying MoMA heavily to remove Black from the board. Last week, the New York Postreported that a number of trustees have urged Black to step down as chair of the museum’s board when his tenure comes up for renewal in July. The paper noted that Black’s disentanglement from the institution is likely to be fraught, with questions surrounding his remaining on the board, of which he has been a member since 1997, even in the event that he should decide to step down as chair. Black, whose personal net worth is estimated at $8.5 billion, owns a tremendous art collection, which MoMA would likely lose a chance at should it remove him from the board.
An extended report in Hyperallergic, also published last week, described how artists’ protests against Black were ignored during the contentious run of PS1 MoMA’s exhibition “Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011” (2019–2020). Apollo owns Constellis Holdings, the rebranded defense contractor originally known as Blackwater, which was responsible for the fatal shooting in 2007 of unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad.