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The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York (Bit Boy/Flickr)

MoMA chairman Leon Black announced Monday, January 25, that he will step down as CEO of his multi-billion dollar private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Black’s announcement followed the release of a company review, which revealed Black’s extensive financial ties with sex offender Jeffery Epstein, who was found dead in a Manhattan jail in the summer of 2019.

According to the review, which was conducted by the law firm Dechert, Black had paid Epstein $158 million between 2012 and 2017, far higher than previous estimates. Black had also lent Epstein more than $30 million, of which only $10 million was paid back.

The report determined that Epstein had provided “legitimate advice” to Black on trust and estate planning, tax issues, and matters related to the billionaire’s vast art collection. Epstein’s advice saved Black around $2 billion in taxes, the report adds.

In August, the US Virgin Islands subpoenaed Black and his related companies as part of a racketeering lawsuit against Epstein’s estate. In October, the New York Times reported that Epstein had received several million dollars in fees from Narrows Holdings, a company that Black had created to oversee his art holdings. The nature of the services provided by Epstein remains unclear.

“I have advised the Apollo board that I will retire as CEO on or before my 70th birthday in July,” Black announced on Monday, adding that he will remain as chairman of the company.

Black’s future as chairman of the Museum of Modern Art’s board remains to be seen. MoMA has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s inquiries about Black’s role, which he has filled since 2018.

In 2019, Black claimed that he was “completely unaware of” and “deeply troubled by” the sex trafficking allegations against Epstein. In 2020, he apologized for his longtime relationship with Epstein during a phone call with investors, calling it a “terrible mistake.”

“I wish I could go back in time and change that decision, but I cannot,” said Black.

However, Dechert’s report describes a less remorseful attitude by MoMA’s chairman. According to the report, Black viewed Epstein as a “confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes,” years after the latter pled guilty to prostitution charges involving a teenage girl in 2008. Black also believed that Epstein had “served his time,” the report says.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

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