Leon Black Sues Law Firm Over Sexual Assault Claims

Billionaire Leon Black sued a New York law firm that has represented three women in sexual assault suits against him, renewing a yearslong campaign to cast such claims as unjust attempts to damage his reputation.

(Bloomberg) — Billionaire Leon Black sued a New York law firm that has represented three women in sexual assault suits against him, renewing a yearslong campaign to cast such claims as unjust attempts to damage his reputation.

The Apollo Global Management co-founder filed suit Monday against Wigdor LLP in New York state court, saying it never properly investigated its “false, life-ruining” allegations. The firm represented Russian model Guzel Ganieva in an explosive assault suit that was ultimately dismissed. Wigdor also has active suits by two other women, both of whom claim Black assaulted them inside Jeffrey Epstein’s New York mansion. 

Black has said he had a consensual relationship with Ganieva but has denied abusing her. He has denied ever meeting the other two women suing him. Ganieva is also named as a defendant in the suit Black filed on Monday.

Monday’s suit isn’t the first time Black has leveled misconduct allegations against the firm founded by Douglas Wigdor. Black previously sued the firm along with his Apollo co-founder Josh Harris and others, alleging a conspiracy with Ganieva to destroy his reputation. The suit was dismissed by a federal judge last year.

“This latest attempt by Leon Black to deflect public attention away from his own disgusting conduct by suing lawyers who represent women he has victimized is appalling,” Wigdor partner Jeanne Christensen said in a statement. “We will not be deterred by such obvious tactics and are confident he will be held accountable.”

Ganieva didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Black’s latest salvo follows on his victory over Ganieva in May, when her suit was tossed by a New York judge. Wigdor withdrew from representing her shortly before the dismissal, citing an “irrevocable breakdown” in relations with its client. The firm filed another lawsuit against Black by Cheri Pierson in November and a “Jane Doe” plaintiff in July.

Read More: Leon Black Wins Multi-Year Fight Over Ex-Model’s Allegations

Monday’s suit accuses Wigdor of malicious prosecution, meaning the firm brought baseless claims with the goal of harming or harassing Black. According to the suit, Wigdor threatened Black with scandalous allegations unless he paid a large settlement, of which the lawyers would take a large cut. 

“When Plaintiff Leon Black had the temerity to reject this scheme, Wigdor sought to teach him a lesson by three separate headline-grabbing lawsuits which it knew, or should have known, were false,” Black’s lawyers allege.

Black stepped down as Apollo chairman in March 2021, shortly after Ganieva first went public with her allegations against him in a series of tweets. At the time, Apollo and Black were already facing scrutiny over his ties to Epstein. Black has admitted paying Epstein $158 million for tax and financial services but has denied knowing of his sex crimes.

Wigdor sued Black on Ganieva’s behalf in June 2021. The suit was later amended to include allegations that Black flew her to Palm Beach, Florida, to meet Epstein. Black, who claimed Ganieva engaged in a multiyear scheme to extort millions of dollars from him, said flight records prove the Florida trip never took place. 

In May, a few weeks before Ganieva’s suit was dismissed, an appeals court ruled that the Epstein allegations needed to be stricken because they were “inflammatory” and weren’t necessary to establish any element of her claim.

‘Epstein ad nauseum’

Black on Monday accused Wigdor of playing up connections to Epstein to try to maximize press attention to the lawsuits. But “despite Wigdor discussing Epstein ad nauseum in each of the Ganieva, Pierson, and Doe complaints, upon information and belief, none of these women ever filed claims against Epstein’s estate — which casts doubt about whether any of them even knew Epstein,” Black said.

According to the suit, the Wigdor firm consciously ignored evidence that its clients were unreliable. He claimed his legal team has “already uncovered evidence that proves Doe’s claims are made up from whole cloth.”

Douglas Wigdor shot to fame filing more than a dozen suits against Fox News over alleged sexual harassment at the conservative network. More recently, he filed a bombshell lawsuit against the National Football League for pervasive racial discrimination in hiring coaches and front-office staff. During the 2020 presidential campaign, he briefly represented Tara Reade, a woman who claimed she’d been sexually assaulted by Joe Biden. 

The court that tossed Ganieva’s suit in May found that her claims were barred by a 2015 agreement in which Black paid her $9.5 million. Ganieva, who is now representing herself, has appealed the ruling. Black is also still pursuing a breach-of-contract suit against Ganieva in which Wigdor is also named as a defendant. 

The case is Black v. Wigdor LLP, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan). 

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