A federal judge dismissed a case brought by former Apollo Global Management chief executive Leon Black alleging that his former partner and others conspired to destroy his reputation and push him out of the firm.
Black last October filed a civil RICO suit in the Southern District of New York in which he accused Guzel Ganieva, a former model with whom he had a yearslong affair, and her law firm of conspiring with a list of unnamed individuals to publicly accuse him of rape and harassment.
In an amended complaint filed in January, the billionaire accused his Apollo co-founder, Josh Harris, and a public relations adviser of encouraging Ganieva to come forward with her claims. as chief executive of the $ 513bn private-equity firm.
In his ruling Thursday, US District Judge Paul Engelmayer dismissed with prejudice the amended complaint’s allegations of conspiracy. He said the complaint failed to demonstrate a relationship and a common purpose between Ganieva, Harris and Steven Rubenstein, the public-relations adviser, calling the alleged links “tenuous, to say the least.”
The allegations regarding Ganieva’s relationship with Harris are “conclusory, vague, indirect, clever and cute,” Judge Engelmayer wrote. “They are not factual, concrete, specific, declarative or trustworthy.”
“We are pleased the court swiftly and fairly dismissed the case and believe the decision speaks for itself,” said a spokesman for Harris.
When Black first filed his federal complaint, “we immediately said it was retaliation,” said Jeanne Christensen of Wigdor, Ganieva’s attorney. “We immediately said it was frivolous and that he did it because he knew that it would hurt her and distract from her claims in state court. Today, the federal court found that the pleadings are’more creative writing than’ facts. ”
Christensen said Ganieva plans to amend her complaint in a separate pending case against Black in New York state court to further accuse Black of using the RICO complaint to retaliate against her.
“We were confident from the outset that this ever-changing and concocted tale, packed with lies about Steven, would not withstand judicial scrutiny, and we are gratified that the court agreed,” said Jacob W. Buchdahl of Susman Godfrey, Rubenstein’s lawyer.
Susan Estrich, a lawyer for Black, said he plans to appeal the ruling and to bring additional legal proceedings.
“Black will continue to pursue his claims against Harris, Rubenstein and Ganieva,” she said. “The evidence that has been uncovered demonstrates that these individuals conspired to try to destroy Black’s reputation and end his professional career.”
The dismissal of Black’s case is the latest turn for the billionaire financier who stepped down as CEO of Apollo in 2021 after a months-long review by law firm Dechert of Black’s ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges related to sex trafficking of minors.
The review found Black wasn’t involved in Epstein’s alleged criminal activities, but found that he had paid the disgraced financier $ 158m over the years for tax-and-estate services.
Apollo at the time named Marc Rowan, another co-founder, as CEO and said Black would remain chairman. The announcement came as a surprise to many within Apollo who had assumed Harris was next in line.
In March 2021, Ganieva came forward with her rape and harassment allegations against Black, detailing them in a series of tweets. Black then stepped down as chairman, leaving the firm entirely.
Ganieva that June sued Black in New York state court, accusing him of defamation and reiterating the claims from her tweets. Black has denied the allegations in that case, which is continuing.
Black’s allegations against Harris, who stepped down from his day-to-day role at Apollo at the end of last year, represented a bitter end to one of the most successful relationships in Wall Street history. Black helped make Harris a billionaire, giving him the title of co-founder in 2007 ahead of Apollo’s planned initial public offering.
Black is now worth $ 8.7bn, while Harris’s fortune is valued at $ 5.3bn, according to Forbes.
Write to Miriam Gottfried at [email protected]
This article was published by Dow Jones Newswires, a fellow Dow Jones Group service