Former College Trustee and donor Leon Black ’73 paid Jeffrey Epstein $158 million, report finds

by Emily Lu | 1/26/21 2:05am

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by Nik Medrano / The Dartmouth

Leon Black ’73, longtime donor to the College and namesake of the Black Family Visual Arts Center, paid convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than $150 million from 2012 to 2017, according to an internal review ordered by the board of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Black, who co-founded Apollo and currently serves as its chief executive and chairman, will step down as CEO before July, according to The New York Times.

The review was ordered in October after an earlier New York Times report revealed that Black had paid Epstein at least $50 million in the years after Epstein first pleaded guilty to charges of sex crimes in 2008. Black, who served on Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees from 2002 until 2011, has donated to the College both personally and through his family foundation. In addition to his $48 million donation for BVAC, his gifts have supported endowed professorships in the English and Jewish Studies departments.

According to College spokesperson Diana Lawrence, there are currently no plans to change BVAC’s name. 

“To date, we are aware of no allegations by anyone in law enforcement, the media or in Apollo’s report as described in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal that Leon Black engaged in any of Epstein’s reprehensible behavior,” Lawrence wrote. “Given what we know at the moment, there has been no discussion about removing the Black family name from the Visual Arts Center.”

Lawrence added that the College “forcefully and unequivocally” condemned Epstein and noted that Black has stated he is “appalled by Epstein and deeply regrets his involvement with him.”

The independent law firm conducting the review found no evidence that Black played a role in Epstein’s criminal activities, which included federal sex-trafficking charges involving teenage girls. However, The New York Times reported that Black’s $158 million in payments to Epstein caused tension between the founders of Apollo — one of whom believed that Black should resign immediately to mitigate reputational damage to the firm — leading to Black’s decision to retire as CEO.

Business ties between Black and Epstein spanned several decades, as Black made Epstein an original trustee of the Leon and Debra Black Family foundation in 1997. Epstein served as a director of the Black Family foundation until 2007, a spokesperson for Black told The Dartmouth in October, though he “played no operational role.”

The College’s senior vice president of advancement Robert Lasher wrote to The Dartmouth on Sept. 24 that the College had found no evidence that Epstein “played a role in any gift to Dartmouth.”

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