Left: Leon D. Black (via Dow Jones Events/Flickr); Right: The Museum of Modern Art (via Bit Boy/Flickr)

Leon Black, the disgraced former chairman of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, has filed a defamation lawsuit against a former model who accused him of rape and years-long sexual misconduct.

In March, the multi-billionaire stepped down from his leadership roles at MoMA and his investment company Apollo Global Management following revelations about his close business and personal ties with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. A review conducted by Dechert LLP for Apollo revealed that Black had paid Epstein $158 million for tax and estate planning between 2012 and 2017, including services related to his vast art collection. The January report, however, cleared Black of any misconduct. Since then, Black has faced numerous other allegations involving sexual misconduct and war profiteering as he remains a MoMA trustee.

Last week, Vanity Fair reported that the Manhattan District Attorney has opened a criminal investigation against Black to probe recent sexual assault allegations by two women. The investigation has not been confirmed by any other source. Last August, Black was subpoenaed in the Virgin Islands as part of a civil racketeering case against the Epstein’s estate.

This latest chapter in Black’s fall from grace and influence began in March when former model Guzel Ganieva tweeted that the billionaire had “sexually harassed and abused” her from 2008 to 2015, ultimately forcing her to sign a non-disclosure agreement. In June, she filed a lawsuit against Black that described “appalling forced sexual misconduct” and a “violent, sadistic side to Black that he has shielded from public view for decades.” Ganieva also charged the billionaire with defamation for framing their relationship as a “consensual affair” and claiming that she had extorted money from him. Black denied the allegations, telling the New York Post that he “foolishly had a consensual affair with Ms. Ganieva that ended more than seven years ago.” He called her allegations against him “completely fabricated” and claimed that he paid her $100,000 a month for 15 years to keep their relationship silent after she allegedly tried to extort him of $100 million.

In August, Vanity Fair reported that the former model amended her lawsuit to allege that Black flew her to Palm Beach without her consent in October 2008 to “satisfy the sex needs of Epstein.” In a statement to the magazine, Black’s attorney Danya Perry called Ganieva’s account “demonstrably and transparently false and betrays her willingness to say anything and fabricate a story in the hope something will stick.” 

In September, Ganieva amended her court filing once more, this time to include allegations that Black raped another woman, identified as “Jane Doe,” in Epstein’s upper Manhattan townhouse in 2002. Jane Doe is described as a single mother of “limited financial means.” A spokesperson for Black described these allegations as a “baseless smear campaign” intended only to “publicly destroy Mr. Black’s personal and professional reputation and to defame him.”

First reported by the Daily Mail, Black is suing Ganieva and her law firm Wigdor Law in response, for allegations of defamation and racketeering conspiracy, accusing them of engaging in a “criminal enterprise” to “destroy him and make him pay anything to make them stop.”

The court filing continues to allege that the defendants “duped and manipulated the media and the courts, using the mails and the wires, to orchestrate an assassination of Mr. Black on every level.”

“This is an obvious act of retaliation and the allegations put forth by Black are delusional,” said Jeanne Christensen, Ganieva’s lawyer at Wigdor, in a statement to Hyperallergic.

“While Mr. Black is free to engage in ludicrous conspiracy theories, it is disheartening to learn that his law firm Quinn Emanuel would sign onto this outlandish theory of victim shaming while they simultaneously attempt to cash in and market themselves as a firm that represents actual survivors,” Christensen continued, adding, “We look forward to defending ourselves against these ludicrous allegations.”

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at 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...