Black attended Apollo meeting days after resignation

Leon Black quietly attended a meeting of top executives at Apollo Global Management days after he resigned from all his positions at the company in an effort to quell investor unease over his ties to the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The group’s executive committee had been scheduled to hold its monthly meeting during the week of March 29, according to several people with knowledge of the participants’ schedules.

Until his resignation as chair and chief executive on March 21, the 69-year-old billionaire had been a fixture on the committee, along with his Apollo co-founders Marc Rowan and Joshua Harris. Three other top executives are regular attendees.

Hours before it was due to start, the gathering was redesignated an “informational meeting” to accommodate the presence of Black, who had resigned from the executive committee in the previous week, two of the people said.

Apollo said in a statement: “As a large shareholder, Mr Black is entitled to information about the company pursuant to confidentiality and other restrictions.”

“On March 21 Mr Black stepped down as chair and CEO and all other Apollo roles,” the firm added. “Mr Black did not, and will not, attend executive committee meetings following such date.”

Yet Black’s presence at a meeting of Apollo’s top brass could undermine efforts by the $455bn investment group to emerge from the shadow of its billionaire co-founder and largest shareholder.

“Shareholders typically do not have permission to attend board or management meetings,” said Charles Elson, a corporate governance expert at the University of Delaware. 

“To attend is odd and counterproductive for both the person and company,” he added. “I can understand it from the human side, feeling part of the organisation. But if you did not want to leave, you should not have left.” 

Earlier this year investors including the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund and the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds expressed reservations about investing in Apollo funds.

Black’s resignation followed intense scrutiny of his personal business activities, including his employment of Epstein to handle art transactions and give tax advice that the billionaire estimated may have provided as much as $2bn in benefits. Black paid $158m to Epstein over a five-year period ending in 2017, according to a report by the law firm Dechert.

“The relentless public attention and media scrutiny . . . have taken a toll on my health and have caused me to wish to take some time away from the public spotlight,” Black wrote to Apollo staff in March.

Black said he would “remain Apollo’s single largest shareholder and its biggest supporter”. He added: “I hope to return at some point.”

Black declined to comment.

Rowan, who replaced Black as chief executive last month, has been overhauling the investment group, merging it with Athene Holding, the insurance company that he helped to create in 2009 and which has become Apollo’s biggest client.

Apollo has added several new independent directors including Jay Clayton, the former chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton replaced Black as Apollo’s chair.

The company has also collapsed its dual-class share structure, as part of an effort to convince investors that its corporate governance is now becoming “best-in-class” as it describes it.

On Friday Apollo said in a securities filing that Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots football team, would leave the Apollo board after a seven-year tenure.

The changes have not impressed Wall Street. Apollo’s shares have been flat in 2021 while its rivals KKR and Blackstone have jumped by 20 per cent or more.

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