Leon Black, the Wall Street billionaire who appeared to be a main client of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, is stepping down as chief executive of Apollo Global Management months ahead of schedule.
Mr. Black had been set to step down as CEO by July 1, the firm announced in January. A statement Monday confirmed his immediate exit from the position as well as the chairmanship he'd been expected to keep.
Co-founder Marc Rowan has taken over as CEO and Jay Clayton was named non-executive chairman of the board, Apollo said.
It's an abrupt turn for Mr. Black, 69, a Wall Street legend who built Apollo into one of the most fearsome — and profitable — names in American finance. He cited unspecified health issues for himself and his wife in announcing his exit.
Mr. Black and Apollo have been dealing with the fallout from his extensive links with convicted sex offender Mr. Epstein, which brought unprecedented scrutiny and unsettled clients and shareholders.
After new evidence of Mr. Black's ties to the late financier surfaced last year, Apollo hired a law firm to look into the matter. The investigation found that Mr. Black paid Mr. Epstein $158 million between 2012 and 2017 — after Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty to felony charges in 2008. Apollo has long maintained it never hired Mr. Epstein for any services, and Mr. Black was never accused of any involvement in his criminal activities.
Apollo expects to report earnings that exceed analyst estimates and first-quarter fundraising that's at the high end of the firm's annual range, Mr. Black said in the statement.
"I thus view this as the ideal moment to step back and focus on my family, my wife Debra's and my health issues, and my many other interests."