Disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein kept the rich and famous — and their money — close to him. Following his 2008 conviction, however, the relationships Epstein had became less visible as his circle of acquaintances became concerned with their reputations and scrambled to distance themselves.
Some claimed their relationship with Epstein was limited, often only to professional and business matters rather than personal. Among those people was billionaire financier Leon Black, a powerful Wall Street executive who knew Epstein for decades and who the New York Times reported had a deeper relationship than what Black let on.
Black and Epstein knew each other for decades. Black’s investment company, Apollo Global Management, wanted to know how close the two had been.
Black continued wiring Epstein millions after the conviction, according to the Times. Black wired Epstein at least $50 million in the years following the conviction for soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl, according to documents reviewed by the Times and interviews with four people who knew of the transactions.
The transfers reportedly included $10 million to a foundation started by Epstein and consulting fees that draw scrutiny from Deutsche Bank, where Epstein kept his accounts.
Epstein styled himself as a financial consultant but reportedly had no great skill in the field or formal training. He was a college dropout who, after working as a calculus and physics teacher at exclusive Manhattan college preparatory school Dalton School, got his first job in finance working as an options trader at Bear Stearns.
He became a limited partner at the firm before he left to launch his own in 1981. Originally called J. Epstein & Co., Financial Trust Co., Epstein’s firm, had a client list of billionaires, which Epstein was secretive about in 2003, only divulging that his clients all had assets in excess of $1 billion, Vanity Fair reported. The company has been incorporated in the U.S. Virgin Islands since the 1990s, Times reports.
It wasn’t clear what kind of services Epstein provided for Black. But Black has a fortune of $9 billion and could afford to hire the best lawyers, accountants and advisers in the world, according to the Times.
“Mr. Black received personal trusts and estates planning advice as well as family office philanthropy and investment services from several financial and legal advisers, including Mr. Epstein, during a six-year period, between 2012 and 2017,” Stephanie Pillersdorf, a spokeswoman for Black, told the Times. “The trusts and estate planning advice was vetted by leading auditors and law firms.”
Parts of the report reviewed by the Times had no explanation for why payments were made. A company called BV70 LLC, which Deutsche Bank said owned Black’s yacht, made a $22.5 million payment in 2017 to Plan D, the company that managed Epstein’s Gulfstream jet. A bank employee reportedly told an employee of the anti-financial-crime division that the payment was a fee for consulting services provided by Epstein’s Southern Trust Company, one of dozens of entities Epstein operated in the Virgin Islands. There was no explanation for why the payment went to Plan D, according to the Times.
Southern Trust collected more than $180 million in fees between 2013 and 2017, but reported no fee income in 2018, the year Black said he cut ties with Epstein, according to the Times.
BV70 also made a $10 million donation in 2015 to Gratitude America, a charitable organization Epstein started when he was casting himself as a philanthropist, the Times reported. BV70 also reportedly planned another $10 million payment to Epstein for advisory work, but it was unclear whether the payment was ever made.
Epstein received several million dollars in fees from Narrows Holding, a company Black used to purchase much of his billion-dollar art collection, the Times reported. But it was unclear to the Times what services Epstein provided in exchange for the fees. (RELATED: ‘What’s Bill Clinton Doing Here?’: Accuser Virginia Giuffre Describes Bill Clinton’s Visit To Jeffrey Epstein’s Pedophile Island)
The details of the transactions also help explain how Epstein was making money after being cut off by his main client, Victoria’s Secret founder Les Wexner. Epstein was actively involved in L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret along with other companies including Bath & Body Works. Epstein denied that he owed his firm’s success to Wexner. Wexner went on to sever his relationship with Epstein in 2007 as suspicions about Epstein loomed, according to the Times.
But even before the relationship ended, people in Wexner’s circle were reportedly puzzled about why Wexner had embraced Epstein despite his thin resume. Wexner’s willingness to accept him without serious credentials parallels the relationship between Black and Epstein.
“I tried to find out how did he get from a high school math teacher to a private investment adviser,” Robert Morosky, the former vice chairman of The Limited said according to the Times. “There was just nothing there.”
Epstein frequently hosted Black at his New York mansion for lunch, suggesting the two didn’t part ways after the conviction. Black traveled by yacht to attend a cookout at Epstein’s island in the U.S. Virgin Island in 2012, people familiar with their relationship said, according to the Times.
Epstein’s financial advisory firm Financial Trust reportedly joined Black and members of his family in investing in Environmental Solutions Worldwide, a small emissions control company, in 2011.
The attorney general of the Virgin Island, Denise N. George, filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit against Epstein’s estate a year after his death, and has said she intends to serve subpoenas on Black and several of his business entities. Black said he was prepared to cooperate with the request, a spokesperson told the Times.
After the Times article was published, Black sent a letter to investors saying he “never tried to conceal” the world Epstein had done for him,” and acknowledged he had paid Epstein “millions of dollars annually for his work.” He also said “there has never been an allegation by anyone, including The New York Times, that I engaged in any wrongdoing or inappropriate conduct.”