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Former Apollo CEO Leon Black admits to affair and ‘extremely poor judgment’ but denies abuse

<i>Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>Leon Black
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Leon Black

By: Moira Ritter, CNN Business

Leon Black, co-founder and former CEO of Apollo Global Management, responded Monday to a lawsuit accusing him of forcing a woman into an abusive relationship for years. He said the only thing he is guilty of is “extremely poor judgment in entering into an affair.”

The original complaint, filed June 1 by former model Guzel Ganieva, alleges that Black manipulated her into a years-long relationship plagued with “intimidation, abuse and humiliation…that on numerous occasions included forced sexual conduct against her will.”

Black and Ganieva’s on-and-off relationship began in 2008, according to the original complaint, when Black “picked Ms. Ganieva out of a crowd” and convinced her to have dinner with him, so he could lay out a plan “to help her with her future.”

According to the complaint, Ganieva is suing Black for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and gender-motivated violence. She is seeking damages and for Black and anyone working with him to be restrained from further “unlawful conduct.”

In court papers filed Monday in New York County, Black’s attorneys assert that Ganieva’s complaint is “a work of fiction” and deny all accusations of abuse and defamation. Instead, Black filed counter claims, accusing Ganieva of an extortion campaign.

Ganieva’s attorneys did not respond to CNN Business’ request for comment.

Black’s response cites a number of meetings starting in June 2015 during which, Black says, Ganieva threatened to go public with her relationship with Black unless he paid her a “vast sum of money.”

The response alleges that two parties came to an agreement in October 2015 in which Black would pay Ganieva $100,000 as an initial payment, forgiveness of about $1 million in loans, monthly payments of $100,000 for 15 years and a payment for Ganieva to use toward gaining legal status in the United Kingdom. In exchange for these payments, the response says, Ganieva would sign a one-page release and confidentiality agreement. Black claims that in those documents, Ganieva admitted to fabricating claims of abuse, according to the court documents.

Ganieva’s initial complaint came after a March 17 Twitter thread in which she accused Black of sexually harassing and abusing her for years.

Black has been under scrutiny in recent months after an October report from the New York Times revealed details about his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Following the report, an independent investigation conducted by a law firm into Black’s ties to Epstein that concluded in January discovered no wrongdoing.

After the investigation, Black was to step down as the firm’s CEO by the end of July but remain as chairman. However, in March, Black completely stepped away from the firm.

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