NEW: Apollo’s Leon Black responds in court to ex-model’s defamation suit. Black accuses Guzel Ganieva of extorting him for millions of dollars, citing recordings and text messages on.wsj.com/3iobVWK
19 July, 2021 - 03:00pm
Updated 2:50 PM ET, Mon July 19, 2021
19 July, 2021 - 01:32pm
embattled Wall Street billionaire Leon Black countered allegations on Monday that he intimidated and sexually assaulted a Russian model, saying instead that he was the victim of an extortion scheme
Wall Street billionaire and Jeffrey Epstein associate Leon Black has admitted to having an affair with a Russian model but furiously denied her claims that he raped and intimidated her - saying that she tried to extort him by threatening to go public with their relationship.
Guzel Ganieva, 38, branded Black, 69, a 'violent, sadistic' sexual predator who raped and harassed her before coercing her into signing a non-disclosure agreement in a defamation lawsuit exposed exclusively by DailyMail.com last month.
Black, the married co-founder of Apollo Global Management, responded to the lawsuit in a scathing filing on Monday in which he branded Ganieva's case 'a work of fiction'.
Black said he and Ganieva had engaged in a consensual affair starting in 2008 until 2015 - when he claims she extorted him by threatening to take their relationship public if he did not pay her $100million.
While he did not meet her initial demand, in exchange for her silence Black said he agreed to forgive $1million in loans he made to her, and to make $100,000 monthly payments for 15 years.
Former model Guzel Ganieva accused Black of being a 'violent, sadistic' sexual predator who raped and harassed her then coerced her into signing an NDA
Black, 69, resigned his position as head of Apollo on March 22, just days after Ganieva went public with her claims that Black had 'abused' her 'for years.'
Black has denied that his resignation had anything to do with the series of tweets posted by Ganieva, which came after he was already under scrutiny for standing by pedophile financier Epstein for years.
His 52-page response to her lawsuit filed on June 1 includes text message exchanges between the two, and accounts of conversations based off of recordings he said he secretly made.
He said he had lavished Ganieva with millions of dollars in gifts including a Steinway piano, acting classes at Columbia University, a $40,000 commissioned portrait of her, rent for an Upper East Side apartment among many others, according to the suit.
In 2015, however, Black alleges that Ganieva had threatened to go public about their relationship, which led to him broaching a non-disclosure agreement with the Russian model.
Black is seen with his wife Debra Black in 2017
Ganieva asserted that the NDA had a vastly different goal. She claims it was reached after she alleged that on July 6, 2014, Black raped her when she was sick at home and so weak she could barely walk.
Her suit claims: 'Never a match for his physical size and strength on this day in particular Ms. Ganieva knew what fate was in store.'
It goes onto claim that, after he had finished, Black stated, 'Now I have f**** you,' before walking out leaving Ganieva naked and unable to move.
The following year Black allegedly offered 'forgiveness' on Ganieva's loans, made in 2011 and 2013 for $480,000 each, on condition that she sign the NDA.
'Disgustingly he used his extreme power and wealth to coerce her into signing a non-disclosure agreement in October 2015 because he knew what he had done to her was shocking, evil and exposed him to potential criminal charges,' she alleges.
Black dispute's Ganieva's side of the encounter, and in the suit includes text messages from before and after the alleged rape.
According to his suit, Black was aware Ganieva was ill, but that on July 2 she told him that she was feeling better, and on July 6 she texted him: 'This is love. I need you...'
When he agreed to stop by, he says she asked for a bottle of wine.
After the encounter Black says Ganieva texted him again, saying: 'It was very nice to see you last night...I love you and thank you!!!! Xoxoxoxoxo and more love.'
Ganieva initially went public with her allegations against Black in a series of tweets on March 17. Black claims her account was made for the sole purpose of defaming him
Black stepped down from his role as CEO of Apollo after he was revealed as a longtime associate of pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Black (right) was with Epstein at a screening of the film Capote in 2005
In particular, Black's filing claims that Ganieva, 'never—not once, in a series of in-person meetings during her extortion campaign, or at any other time—claimed sexual or physical abuse of any kind.'
'In short, Mr. Black is guilty only of extremely poor judgment in entering into an affair with Ganieva in the first instance,' the suit reads.
Other accounts disputed by Black includes claims that Ganieva left the country with her son, shortly after the alleged rape to distance her from him.
He says her student visa had expired, and on the day of her departure sent him flowers and a text saying: 'I love you and miss you already.'
Ganieva also accused Black of constantly belittling her, forcing her to walk behind him in public. He allegedly criticized her clothing and make-up and she claims that he 'berated' her for refusing to agree to threesomes with other women.
Standing 6ft 5 tall and weighing in at 300lbs Ganieva alleges that Black also physically intimidated her by clenching.
Black, however, alleges that he had asked little in return in their relationship, even going so far as to help her secure job interviews, despite her being 'underqualified,' and 'unprepared.'
He says in his suit that he believes her sudden shift in tone regarding their relationship in 2015 was likely due to her failing to gain legal status in the UK.
Ganieva initially went public with her allegations on March 17 with a series of tweets in which she said she was 'bullied, manipulated, threatened, and coerced,' and revealed the existence of the NDA.
She had created the Twitter accounted that month, and Black's suit alleges that it had been 'set up for the sole purpose of publishing the defamatory tweets.'
'When I refused his sexual advances I was bullied, manipulated, threatened and coerced. Similarly, under duress I was forced to sign an NDA in 2015,' she wrote, claiming, 'I am breaking my silence now because I do not want this type of predatory behavior to continue happening to other women.'
Black countered in his suit that the NDA had come at Ganieva's suggestion, and that she happily signed it, texting him afterward: 'Thank you for everything. Talk soon.'
Black filed his 52-page countersuit on Monday
That month Black had stepped down from his role at Apollo after he described his decision to give Epstein a 'second chance' as, 'a terrible mistake.'
Black denied his resignation had anything to do with Ganieva's tweets.
In an article published by Bloomberg on April 8, Black said, 'Any allegation or any other inappropriate behavior towards her is completely fabricated.'
He went onto to claim, 'The truth is that I have been extorted by Ms. Ganieva for years and I made substantial monetary payments to her, based on her threats to go public concerning our relationship, in an attempt to spare my family from public embarrassment.'
The lawsuit filed on Ganieva's behalf by Widgdor Law describes this statement as malicious and 'right from the playbook of scores of wealthy and powerful men facing similar accusations.'
Comparing Black to Harvey Weinstein, Bill O'Reilly, Paul Haggis and Alan Dershowitz and Russell Simmons all of whom accused their own would-be accusers of attempted 'shake downs' the suit dismisses his claims as false and defamatory.
Ganaieva in her suit alleges that, 'like a master chess player… Black was many moves ahead of Ms. Ganieva from the moment he met her.'
Black allegedly 'picked her out of a crowd' in March 2008 while attending an International Women's Day event in New York City.
The single mother, then in her twenties, had recently moved from Russia to the United States. According to her case, 'It was easy work for Black to convince Ms. Ganieva to dine with him at La Grenouille where he planned to tell her exactly how he could help with her future.'
Black allegedly gained Ganieva's trust so that he could betray it while Ganieva was flattered and naïve as to his intentions.
The suit states, 'Naively Ms Ganieva believed that Black was not interested in her sexually, simply because she told him that their relationship would not be sexual.
'Black, however, is a ruthless planner and a man that gets what he wants.'
The billionaire, however, disputes this, saying in his suit that, 'Ganieva apparently saw a golden ticket in Mr. Black, and persistently sought him out following their initial meeting,' and that she, 'quickly began pressing him for substantial payments of money and gifts.'
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19 July, 2021 - 12:23pm
In June, Guzel Ganieva filed a lawsuit claiming Black—perhaps best known lately as a former friend to Jeffrey Epstein and for his ties to the Museum of Modern Art—coerced her into signing a nondisclosure agreement to stay silent about his years of “sexual violence” toward her. The 69-year-old private-equity mogul, in response, released a statement indicating he “foolishly had a consensual affair” with Ganieva, and his spokesman told the media that her complaint was “nothing more than a wholesale fiction.”
Now, in a 52-page answer and counterclaim filed Monday, Black alleges he has “irrefutable documentary evidence” that shows Ganieva, 38, “embarked on a campaign of extortion” to get more funds from him in 2015, after the relationship ended.
The court document also indicates Black is working to uncover whether Ganieva “is acting alone or is working in concert with” others in bringing her complaint.
“In short, Mr. Black is guilty only of extremely poor judgment in entering into an affair with Ganieva in the first instance, in making an easy target of himself throughout their relationship by lavishing her with gifts and money, and in allowing himself to be extorted rather than immediately reporting Ganieva to law enforcement,” Black’s court filing states.
“Ganieva, on the other hand, must be held to account,” the pleading continues. “In her defamatory Twitter posts, Ganieva purports to invoke ‘#MeToo,’ and claims to have come forward to protect ‘other women.’ In reality, her demonstrable lies and extortion are cynical attempts to weaponize a critically important and long-overdue movement. In so doing, Ganieva has done a tragic disservice to the brave truth-tellers—the vast majority of accusers—who have survived sexual abuse.
“This lawsuit will reveal who Ms. Ganieva really is; what truly motivated this hit job; and whether she is acting alone or is working in concert with, or at the behest of, a third party who might wish Mr. Black ill.”
Black is countersuing Ganieva for breach of contract, as well as defamation, relating to posts to her Twitter account in March 2021 and an interview with the New York Post. The billionaire investor is seeking damages and attorneys’ fees.
In a statement, Jeanne Christensen, a partner at the firm Wigdor LLP who is representing Ganieva, told The Daily Beast, “Right out of the defense playbook, Black’s counter-claims are an obvious effort at intimidating Ms. Ganieva, who will continue to aggressively litigate her claims and hold Black accountable for his heinous conduct.”
“As he admits in [the countersuit], Black ceased paying her in March 2021 after she posted her Tweet,” Christensen said in a phone call. “Is that how an extortionist extraordinaire operates? It is the antithesis of everything he claims she plotted to do for years.”
Christensen added that Black still hasn’t provided Ganieva or her lawyers with a full copy of an alleged confidentiality agreement cited in his filing—and noted that Black’s legal team didn’t attach it to his counterclaim to prove a breach of contract.
Black’s document alleges Ganieva threatened to go public about their affair—to Black’s wife, Debra, the press, and the board of his company, Apollo Global Management—unless he paid her $100 million. “Aware that he had become the victim of a criminal extortion scheme, Mr. Black began to record his conversations with Ganieva,” the counterclaim adds. “Those recordings speak for themselves, and are devastating to Ganieva’s purported claims.”
Ganieva filed her complaint in Manhattan civil court last month, as Black was facing increasing scrutiny over his financial ties to and friendship with Epstein, the notorious sex criminal who died by suicide behind bars. This spring, amid reports he paid Epstein $158 million over a five-year period ending in 2017, Black announced he’d resign as chairman of the Museum of Modern Art and as CEO of Apollo.
While Ganieva’s defamation suit alleges Black threatened her into accepting nearly $1 million in loans in 2015 in fear he might “destroy her life,” Black claims he entered into the agreement so she would keep their affair confidential in exchange for cash. Black says that as part of the language of that NDA, which he cites in Monday’s court filing, Ganieva admitted the accusations she made against him weren’t true.
“Over the next five and a half years, Mr. Black upheld his end of the deal, paying Ganieva exorbitant sums of money pursuant to a regular monthly schedule,” Black’s filing states. “Suddenly, in March 2021—after having accepted payments month in and month out, for well over five years, totaling millions of dollars—Ganieva posted a series of tweets proclaiming, among other things, that Mr. Black had ‘sexually harassed and abused’ her ‘for years.’ Those statements were vicious, devastating—and utterly false.”
Black also denies disturbing abuse claims Ganieva made in her suit, including a July 2014 incident in which she alleges he “barged into” her apartment when she was too sick to walk and raped her. According to Black’s version of events, Ganieva’s own text messages from that day reveal “she was perfectly well,” telling him, “This is love. I need you,” and requested that he bring over a bottle of wine that evening. The morning after that alleged encounter, Black claims, Ganieva texted him to say, “It was very nice to see you last night,” and added, “I love you and thank you!!!! Xoxoxoxoxo and more love.”
Black’s filing claims that in the following weeks, Ganieva asked to meet him in person multiple times. (Experts note, however, that it’s not unusual for people who’ve experienced physical or sexual violence to continue to see their abusers.)
The billionaire also contests Ganieva’s accusation that Black plucked her out of a crowd at an International Women’s Day event in 2008 and began aggressively courting her. Instead, Black claims, they met at a private party hosted by a former colleague of Black’s and Ganieva “apparently saw a golden ticket in Mr. Black” and began pursuing him.
Black’s counterclaim alleges Ganieva had left her husband in Russia and struggled financially once she arrived in the United States. Ganieva, the filing adds, “repeatedly asked” for high-priced luxuries “totaling millions of dollars,” including an apartment on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side, lavish vacations, Columbia University tuition, a Steinway piano, and a $40,000 commissioned portrait of herself. In 2011 and 2013, the filing alleges, Ganieva requested two $480,000 loans from Black.
Black claims that in June 2015, Ganieva swapped her romantic texts to him with urgent pleas to meet in person. “Based on statements made by Ganieva to Mr. Black, this sudden shift in tone appears to have coincided with her failure to gain legal status in the United Kingdom; whatever the reason, Ganieva became intensely focused on getting even more money and trying to procure an expensive visa,” the court filing states.
Black and Ganieva agreed to meet in New York on June 24, 2015, in what the private-equity tycoon calls “a brazen shakedown.” Multiple other meetings followed throughout summer and fall of that year, Black claims, prompting him to contact criminal defense attorneys and to arrange for his conversations with her to be recorded.
“The more, the longer I wait, the more sure I become that I actually, I prefer to go public,” Ganieva allegedly told him during one conversation. “I’m dying to talk to press about it.”
When Black asked Ganieva why she was owed $100 million, she allegedly replied that she’d been “like a wife” to him and that their bond “was like a marriage.” Ganieva also allegedly told Black that she suffered “emotionally” because of their relationship.
“When men and women in relationship for a very long time and woman doesn’t work and man works, and she gets all the stress from his work, and he makes a lot of money—usually by law—she’s entitled to half, OK?” Ganieva allegedly told Black, adding that she believed he actually owed her “a couple of billions.”
Black claims that Ganieva accused him of spreading gossip about her and of derailing her future. The billionaire’s court filing enumerates multiple instances where Ganieva shared “paranoid” claims with him, including that “people tried to drug her,” that “the children of the rich” were stalking her, and that a handful of billionaires were aligned in a “conspiracy” against her. According to Black’s answer, Ganieva claimed she was being bullied, including by a teacher at Columbia, because of her relationship with him.
In the pleading, the beleaguered billionaire shares a variety of quotes allegedly attributable to Ganieva, claiming she admitted that Black wasn’t physically or sexually abusive. When Black told her they had a consensual affair, Ganieva is said to have replied that their liaison “just lasted a little bit too long and you got a little bit too involved.”
Ultimately, Black alleges in the court filing, he entered into an NDA with Ganieva over lunch at the Four Seasons restaurant in October 2015. He says he agreed to pay Ganieva $100,000, forgive about $1 million in loans to her, and make $100,000 in monthly payments for the next 15 years. Black also claims he agreed to provide a payment of 2 million pounds to help her obtain legal status in the United Kingdom.
Black’s filing also includes some of the supposed language of their 2015 agreement: “GG [Ganieva] has made certain allegations and asserted certain claims against LBD [Mr. Black], which she made under extreme stress and which she now concedes are not true, and which allegations and claims, if made public, would damage LDB’s career, reputation and relationships with others.”
After the papers were signed, Black alleges in the answer and counterclaim, “Ganieva was elated” and “spent approximately 45 minutes finishing her lunch, sharing a Grand Marnier soufflé with Mr. Black, discussing her investment and travel plans, and laughing about the fact that she was ‘a woman of means now.”
Black’s answer and counterclaim also state that he set up a new account, called the “E Trust,” to make payments to Ganieva.
“To be very clear: the ‘E’ in ‘E Trust’ stands for ‘Extortion,’” the document alleges.
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19 July, 2021 - 12:17pm
By Josh Kosman
July 19, 2021 | 1:17pm | Updated July 19, 2021 | 3:54pm
Billionaire investor Leon Black has sued his model ex-girlfriend who accused him of rape, claiming he has “irrefutable documentary evidence” that she defamed him — and not the other way around.
In a stunning counterclaim filed in Manhattan state court on Monday, the former head of Apollo Global Management claims Russian model Guzel Ganieva lied about being subjected to a “sadistic,” “sexually violent” relationship that resulted in Black paying her big bucks to keep it quite.
Instead, Black says Ganieva pursued him in an on-again off-again relationship that went off the rails in 2015 when she demanded $100 million to keep quiet about the affair.
“In short, Mr. Black is guilty only of extremely poor judgment in entering into an affair with Ganieva in the first instance, in making an easy target of himself throughout their relationship by lavishing her with gifts and money, and in allowing himself to be extorted rather than immediately reporting Ganieva to law enforcement,” the shocking new lawsuit claims.
Black on Monday sought to cast doubt on Ganieva’s rape claims by introducing text messages she sent him, including on July 6 when she claims he raped her while returning from a July Fourth vacation in the Hamptons.
“While [Ganieva’s] complaint alleges that Mr. Black ‘suddenly’ ‘barged’ into her apartment when she was too sick to walk or move, Ganieva’s own text messages show that she was perfectly well when she initiated contact with Mr. Black that day,” the lawsuit says of the alleged July 6 rape.
According to Black, Ganieva invited him to her apartment, saying: ‘[t]his is love. I need you…’—and requested that he bring a bottle of wine to her home that evening.”
Two days later, Ganieva, “again unprompted, asked her supposed brutal rapist if he wanted to get together soon, signing the message: ‘Lots of love, g.’,” according to Black’s complaint.
Ganieva, through her lawyer, denied Black’s allegations.
“Right out of the defense playbook, Black’s counter-claims are an obvious effort at intimidating Ms. Ganieva who will continue to aggressively litigate her claims and hold Black accountable for his heinous conduct,” said lawyer Jeanne Christensen of Wigdor LLP.
It’s unusual for a billionaire titan of industry like Black, the former chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, to open the door to his private life by filing a lawsuit addressing rape allegations.
As The Post reported in April, Ganieva first burst into public view in March, when she posted a series of Twitter messages claiming to have been “forced to sign an NDA in 2015” relating to allegations that Black “sexually harassed and abused” her.
About a week later, Black abruptly resigned as CEO and chair of Apollo. He had already been scheduled to step down as CEO this summer amid growing questions about his ties to dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Sources told The Post that Black resigned after several Apollo directors got their hands on Ganieva’s tweets. Black has denied that his resignation had anything to do with the allegations by Ganieva, who he claimed had been trying to extort him over their “consensual” affair.
Ganieva sued Black a few months later, in June, alleging defamation and detailing multiple rape allegations.
In his Monday countersuit, Black says his relationship with Ganieva ended in 2014 when she finished college.
Black claims that during their six years together, “Ganieva consistently professed her love and appreciation for Mr. Black.” He, in turn, lavished her with “millions of dollars” in gifts, including “an expensive rental apartment on the Upper East Side … a luxury car; lavish vacations (including at the beach and to the Alps); school tuition (for acting and at Columbia University); jewelry 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 totaling in the millions of dollars.”
A year after the relationship ended in 2015, Ganieva allegedly demanded $100 million, threatening to “ruin his family, his business, and his life” by going public about the affair, his lawsuit says.
That’s when Black started recording Ganieva, according to the lawsuit. She alleged in some recorded conversations that Black had been “abusive” to her, the lawsuit admits, but claims she never once mentioned sexual assault.
After months of negotiations, including in-person meetings, Black agreed to fork over $21 million in hush money. Black agreed to pay Ganieva $100,000 a month for 15 years; to forgive $1 million in loans he had given her and to give her 2 million GBD to establish her legal residency in the United Kingdom.
In exchange, Ganieva agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement admitting that claims she had made about him, “including about he had been ‘abusive’ to her,” were fabricated, the lawsuit said.
The final agreement was signed over lunch.
“Ganieva was elated. After the papers were signed, she spent approximately 45 minutes finishing her lunch, sharing a Grand Marnier soufflé with Mr. Black, discussing her investment and travel plans, and laughing about the fact that she was ‘a woman of means now,’” the suit alleges.
Shortly after their meeting, she texted him: “Thank you for everything. Talk soon xoxo,” the suit alleges.
19 July, 2021 - 08:32am
Guzel Ganieva, a Russian immigrant and former model, sued Mr. Black on June 1, accusing him of defamation and alleging he raped and harassed her. She said he forced her to endure a “cycle of intimidation, abuse and humiliation.”
In court papers filed in New York County, attorneys for Mr. Black say that the married private-equity mogul was engaged in a consensual, on-and-off relationship with Ms. Ganieva for six years until she began extorting him in 2015 by threatening to go public with their affair.
During their relationship, Mr. Black gave Ms. Ganieva millions of dollars of gifts, paying the rent for her pricey Upper East Side apartment, buying her a luxury car and Steinway piano, financing lavish vacations, paying her tuition at acting school and at Columbia University, and funding a $40,000 commissioned portrait of her, according to the court filing.
In 2015, Ms. Ganieva asked for a meeting with Mr. Black, during which she threatened to go public with their relationship unless he paid her an additional large sum of money, the filing states. While Mr. Black didn’t meet her initial demand of $100 million, the two did reach an agreement later that year, according to the court document.
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