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Billionaire Leon Black says he 'deeply regrets' paying Jeffrey Epstein millions of dollars in professional fees. 'I wish I could go back in time and change that decision.'

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Leon Black Leon Black, CEO of investment firm Apollo Global Management.

  • Billionaire Leon Black on Thursday gave his most thorough public account to date about his business relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
  • Black, the CEO of investment firm Apollo Global Management, said he regretted giving Epstein “a second chance” after Epstein’s 2009 release from prison.
  • Black said he paid Epstein “millions of dollars annually” for his professional services between 2012 and 2017.
  • “This was a terrible mistake. I wish I could go back in time and change that decision,” he said during an Apollo earnings call, adding that he never “engaged in any wrongdoing.”
  • “Had I known any of the facts about Epstein sickening and repulsive conduct, which I learned in late 2018, more than a year after I stopped working with him, I never would have had anything to do with him,” he said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Leon Black, the billionaire CEO of investment firm Apollo Global Management, on Thursday spoke of his regret about giving convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein “a second chance” by paying Epstein millions of dollars in professional fees.

During an Apollo earnings call, Black gave his most detailed account to date about his relationship with Epstein, who was convicted of soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl in 2008, and released from prison in 2009.

Black confirmed he had paid Epstein “millions of dollars annually” between 2012 and 2017. 

This money was for professional services Epstein gave to Black’s family partnership and related family entities, which included estate planning and tax advice.

The New York Times reported on October 21 that Black paid at least $50 million to Epstein in consulting and other fees, despite telling his investors that the pair’s relationship was “limited.”

“I decided to give Epstein a second chance,” Black said Thursday. “This was a terrible mistake. I wish I could go back in time and change that decision.”

Black said he put “misplaced confidence” in Epstein because Epstein was surrounded by people “I respected and admired,” including academics, scientists, heads of states, and business leaders.

Black’s relationship with Epstein is currently being reviewed by an external law firm.

Epstein, a former American financier, was again arrested in 2019, on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors. He died in his jail cell in August 2019. His death was ruled a suicide.

On the call, Black said he wanted to talk about his relationship with Epstein because the matter was “now affecting Apollo, which my partners and I spent 30 years building, and is also causing deep pain for my family.”

He said all the work he paid Epstein for had been vetted by lawyers, accountants, and other experts. 

“Let me be clear, there has never been an allegation by anyone that I engaged in any wrongdoing because I did not,” said Black, adding that any suggestion he was being blackmailed by Epstein is “categorically untrue.” 

Apollo “never did any business with Epstein,” Black said.

Black first met Epstein in 1996

The founder, chairman, and CEO of Apollo recalled that he met Epstein around 1996, when the American financier was advising prominent clients.

“I was not aware of Epstein’s criminal conduct until it was publicly reported that Epstein was being investigated by Florida state and federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials beginning in late 2006,” Black said on the call.

After being released in 2009, Epstein continued to work with many respected people, Black said. He said he retained Epstein’s services in 2012 for “personal estate planning, tax structuring and philanthropic advice.”

“Had I known any of the facts about Epstein sickening and repulsive conduct, which I learned in late 2018, more than a year after I stopped working with them I never would have had anything to do with him,” he said.

Last week, Black and Apollo’s board agreed to use an external law firm to review Black’s ties with Epstein. In the earnings call, Black said: “The review is now underway, and I am cooperating fully.”

Tax filings seen by Business Insider in 2019 showed that Epstein was the sole director for Black’s family foundation for more than a decade. Epstein stayed on even after pleading guilty to soliciting prostitution, the filings showed.