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Leon Black cannot revive conspiracy lawsuit--US appeals court

Published 03/02/2023, 12:23 PM
Updated 03/02/2023, 03:26 PM
© Reuters.

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Leon Black, the billionaire co-founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management (NYSE:APO) Inc, cannot revive a lawsuit accusing former Russian model Guzel Ganieva, Apollo co-founder Josh Harris and others of conspiring to destroy his reputation.

In an unsigned order on Thursday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said a lower court judge had discretion to dismiss the racketeering and defamation lawsuit without considering an amended complaint that Black wanted to file.

The judge, Paul Engelmayer, last June found Black's lawsuit "glaringly deficient in fundamental respects" and said amending it would be "futile."

He also said Black gave up his chance to amend his lawsuit by responding to arguments for dismissing it.

Ganieva sued Black in June 2021 in a New York state court, saying he defamed her by falsely claiming she tried to extort him after accusing him of rape.

Black, 71, has denied the rape occurred, and said Ganieva breached a nondisclosure agreement about what he has called their consensual affair from about 2008 to 2014.

Ganieva's case remains pending.

Susan Estrich, a lawyer for Black, in a statement said Thursday's order "doesn't change" Ganieva's conduct, and the state litigation "will expose her despicable claims as lies."

Lawyers for Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Ganieva's lawyer Jeanne Christensen said she was "extremely pleased" with the order.

In early 2021, Black stepped down as Apollo's chief executive and chairman after an independent review found he had paid sex offender Jeffrey Epstein $158 million for tax and estate planning.

Black also faces a lawsuit claiming he raped another woman, Cheri Pierson, two decades ago in Epstein's mansion in Manhattan. Estrich has called that lawsuit "baseless."

The case is Black v Ganieva et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-1524.

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