Leon Black has forcefully rejected claims that he raped and harassed a young Russian model, branding the woman’s lawsuit “a work of fiction”, and contending that text messages and audio recordings show that he has “become the victim of a criminal extortion scheme”.
Lawyers for the billionaire dismissed his accuser, Guzel Ganieva, as a “fabulist”. They demanded that a court strike “scandalous” and “prejudicial” sections of her complaint, including a claim that he “derived pleasure” from humiliating and debasing her, and that he did not care “about being seen out with other young women, often of Russian descent”.
The response marks Black’s latest effort to contain the fallout from a series of allegations surrounding his personal life and business interests outside Apollo Global Management, the $455bn investment group he co-founded in 1990.
Black stepped down from all his positions at Apollo in March, weeks after it was revealed that he had paid the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein $158m for financial advice and other professional services.
Ganieva filed her lawsuit in June, claiming that Black had subjected her to “forced sadistic sexual acts” before ordering her to sign a non-disclosure agreement and declaring: “If you do not take the money, I will put you in prison.”
In a filing in New York state supreme court on Monday, Black’s lawyers revealed the existence of tape recordings that they say tell “a stunningly different story” — and prove that the billionaire never uttered those words.
Black’s lawyers say he met Ganieva “at a private party thrown annually by a former colleague” and began a relationship that was “casual, episodic, and completely consensual”.
“Ganieva apparently saw a golden ticket,” Black’s lawyers wrote. “She repeatedly asked for such things as an expensive rental apartment on the Upper East Side . . . a luxury car; lavish vacations . . . school tuition (for acting and at Columbia University); jewellery and clothing; a Steinway piano; a $40,000 commissioned portrait of herself (which she kept hung in her apartment); and many, many gifts of cash — all totalling in the millions of dollars.”
Monday’s filing contradicts Ganieva’s account of a 2014 incident during which she alleged that Black “barged in” to her apartment and raped her. Black’s lawyers say the encounter was in fact a “pre-planned romantic evening”.
The billionaire “showed up at precisely the appointed time with the wine, as requested, in order to ‘tuck’ Ganieva into bed”, the lawyers wrote. They added that Ganieva later sent “a message of thanks and love” that read: “It was very nice to see you last night. I already feel better.”
In June 2015, however, Black’s lawyers say that Ganieva began “what can only be described as a brazen shakedown”, demanding a sum of $100m and “explicitly stating that she would harm Mr Black’s personal and professional life” unless he paid up.
To begin with, Black’s lawyers say, Ganieva contended that “she had been ‘like a wife’” and “based on this faulty reasoning . . . claimed entitlement to half his earnings”.
But when Black “pointed out that ‘having an on-and-off affair’ for ‘five years’ was not ‘akin to a marriage’”, his lawyers say that Ganieva switched to making claims that she herself characterised as “paranoid”.
“You could have given me a job,” Ganieva allegedly said. “You could have given me a visa . . . This time . . . I want to tell you and I want to do what’s right for me. I totally deserve it.”
Ganieva’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to Black’s lawyers, the pair met at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York in October that year to finalise an agreement. Black promised to pay $100,000 a month for the next 15 years. Black’s filing contends that Ganieva acknowledged making “certain allegations . . . under extreme stress and which she now concedes are not true”, and promised never to sue Black over anything that had happened in the past or disclose any information that could damage his career.
The October meeting was also recorded. Ganieva took approximately 12 minutes to review the one-page document, according to Black’s lawyers. They say that after it was signed, Ganieva pronounced herself “a woman of means”, and the pair shared a Grand Marnier soufflé.
Black denies ever threatening to destroy Ganieva’s life or put her in prison. “If a private citizen even had the power to do such things,” his lawyers wrote, “it is unclear why that person would force millions of dollars upon someone instead of just doing those things”.
The billionaire says he made his monthly payments until March this year, when Ganieva posted “defamatory tweets” alleging that Black had abused her.
Ganieva’s lawsuit stated that the payments came from an account called “E Trust”, an entity that she said she had never heard of.
“To be very clear,” Black’s lawyers wrote in their filing on Monday, “the ‘E’ in ‘E Trust’ stands for ‘Extortion’”.