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Apollo co-founder Leon Black wins dismissal of sexual assault lawsuit

Leon Black, the billionaire financier who abruptly quit as head of Apollo Global Management after revelations about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, has secured the dismissal of a lawsuit in which an ex-mistress accused him of sexual misconduct.

Guzel Ganieva sued Black in 2021, alleging he picked her out of an event for International Women’s Day in 2008 and plied her with promises of job interviews at Goldman Sachs at the beginning of a relationship that later turned abusive.

But a New York judge threw out Ganieva’s lawsuit on Wednesday, ruling that her claims were riddled with legal flaws and anyway were barred under the terms of a non-disclosure agreement dating from 2015.

The court added Ganieva had received about $9.5mn from Black under the agreement, and returned none of it, meaning she could not now claim she signed the contract under duress.

In a statement issued shortly after the ruling was made public, Black said Ganieva had been “able to manipulate the legal system and the media” in a way that was “exceptionally painful to my family, my business partners and friends, and me”.

The lawsuit, which contained graphic details of mistreatment that Ganieva claimed she had suffered at the hands of Black, has garnered widespread media attention since its filing.

In one set of court papers, Ganieva detailed a supposed trip to Florida during which she claimed Black had tried to pressure her into having sex with Epstein, a convicted sex offender. Black maintained flight logs proved the trip had never happened.

The ruling, by New York state judge David Cohen, marks a victory for Black in his long-running battle with the Wigdor law firm, which filed the suit on behalf of Ganieva and is representing another woman, Cheri Pierson, who accuses the billionaire of rape.

Black has asked a court to punish Wigdor for filing a lawsuit on behalf of Pierson, which he said “abused the court system to launder frivolous, unsubstantiated, and damaging accusations of sexual assault” into the public record. He is also suing Wigdor and Ganieva over what he calls her “fraudulent” lawsuit. Ganieva fired Wigdor as her lawyers last month.

Wigdor has previously described Black’s attempt to have the firm hit with sanctions as “pathetic PR” to create a distraction.

The collapse of Ganieva’s lawsuit marks the end of an extraordinary chapter in which the lurid allegations concerning Black’s personal life fused with a battle for control of Apollo, one of America’s foremost private equity groups.

Black, who co-founded Apollo in 1990, sued his former top lieutenant Josh Harris last year, accusing him of conspiring with Ganieva to ruin his reputation and dislodge him from the top job at the $513bn investment group.

But a federal judge threw out the lawsuit against Harris, calling Black’s legal theory “conclusory, vague, indirect, clever and cute”.

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