In the end, it was two against one — the ultimate power play by Leon Black, one of Wall Street's ultimate power-players.
After months of ugly headlines about his business dealings with notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Mr. Black himself orchestrated a plan to remove the taint from Apollo Global Management — without completely letting go of the company he built.
Mr. Black and one of his lieutenants, Marc Rowan, would join forces against the partner they viewed as the wrong pick for the Apollo throne. Mr. Rowan would get the keys to the kingdom, while his colleague and rival, Joshua Harris, would gain nothing.
So it was that power inside one of the world's most powerful investment firms is now passing to Mr. Rowan, 58, who not long ago seemed an unlikely successor to the mighty Leon Black. Insiders, speaking on the condition they not be named, described the drama late Monday after the board revealed that Mr. Black had paid a startling $158 million for Mr. Epstein's advice. Still, the iconic dealmaker will remain chairman, while his preferred partner replaces him as chief executive officer.
Apollo shares climbed 3.9% to $47.65 at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday in New York.
The hope among the firm's executives and investors is that it is now fully extricated from Mr. Black's tabloid-worthy association with Mr. Epstein, whose arrest and subsequent jailhouse death in 2019 sent shock waves well beyond moneyed Manhattan.
Apollo has been distracted doing damage control for more than a year, as one revelation after another about Mr. Black's business ties to Mr. Epstein spilled into public view, unsettling clients and shareholders. Apollo has long maintained it never hired Mr. Epstein for any services, and Mr. Black, 69, was never accused of any involvement in his criminal activities.