May 24, 2023
Leon Black Wins Dismissal of Russian Ex-Model’s Assault Suit
(Bloomberg) -- Leon Black won a legal fight with a former model from Russia who claimed he sexually assaulted her, a case that riveted Wall Street and revealed intimate aspects of the billionaire’s life.
The private equity titan for two years engaged in an escalating series of claims with Guzel Ganieva, who accused him of rape and taking her to Florida to meet with Jeffrey Epstein and engage in sex acts. He responded with allegations of a conspiracy to destroy him that included one of his closest business partners.
Ganieva had lost the support of her own lawyers by the time a Manhattan judge on Wednesday dismissed the suit against the Apollo Global Management founder.
“From the very beginning, I’ve made clear that Ms. Ganieva’s allegations against me were false and there was no basis for this suit,” Black said in a statement. “I am gratified that the truth has come out and justice has been finally done.”
The drama started when Ganieva, who’s about 30 years younger than Black, sued him in 2021 after he denied her assault allegation. Black described their relationship as consensual, one which involved him giving her presents including a Steinway piano, a $40,000 commissioned portrait of herself and many gifts of cash.
Black, 71, accused Ganieva of trying to extort money from him after paying her millions to keep quiet about their affair, an agreement they reached at a Four Seasons restaurant in New York over lunch.
New York state court judge David Cohen ruled that the non-disclosure agreement, under which Ganieva received $9.5 million in payments from Black over six years, is valid and bars her suit against him.
Right before Ganieva made her explosive allegations, Black was deeply embroiled in a separate scandal — that of his financial ties to the late sex offender Epstein, who he paid more than $150 million over several years for tax advice. Amid the uproar over his private life, Black left Apollo and stepped away as chairman of the Museum of Modern Art.
Black later accused his Apollo co-founder Josh Harris, public relations professional Steven Rubenstein and Ganieva in a federal lawsuit of creating an “enterprise” to destroy him professionally and personally. Black’s suit was dismissed by a judge who ruled that it was glaringly deficient.
“Make no mistake: this has been exceptionally painful to my family, my business partners and friends, and me,” Black said in the statement, saying he will now continue to focus on his family, investing and philanthropy.
Black has a $10 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and since leaving Apollo has ramped up his family office Elysium Management.
Ganieva’s suit had been dealt a serious blow by the withdrawal of her lawyers, Wigdor LLP, earlier this month. She was left to represent herself, and Cohen warned her at a May 2 hearing that he might dismiss the case.
Read More: Leon Black Rape Accuser’s Lawyers Granted Exit From Litigation
“The NDA clearly and unambiguously covers all claims arising out of the parties’ relationship, past or future,” Cohen wrote in his Wednesday opinion, rejecting her claims that she was forced into the agreement “under duress.”
The case is Ganieva v. Black, 155262/2021, Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County (Manhattan).
(Updates with extra comment in fourth paragraph.)
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