May 7, 2020 - Economy & Business

"The Leon Black route" at Harvard

Illustration of Jeffery Epstein with money in the background
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When Jeffrey Epstein was barred from donating money to MIT, a university development officer suggested that "the Leon Black route" be used instead. As I reported back in September, Epstein engineered donations to MIT from Black, the chairman and CEO of private equity giant Apollo. Now it looks like he did something very similar at Harvard.

Driving the news: Harvard's official report on its Epstein connections has now been published, showing how professor Martin Nowak was funded after Epstein was convicted of sex crimes in 2008.

  • Background: Nowak's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics "was established in 2003 by Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers following an imaginative proposal by Jeffrey Epstein." That's according to the first version of the center's website.

Barred from donating to the university after his conviction, Epstein remained very close to Nowak.

  • When Nowak needed more money after Epstein's initial $6.5 million ran out, the pedophile financier introduced him to Black.
  • Black had no pre-existing relationship with Nowak but ended up providing $7 million in unrestricted gifts to allow the professor to keep paying rent on his research space in Brattle Square.
  • After those checks cleared, Epstein maintained an office in the research quarters that Black's money paid for. According to the report, "it is likely that he visited PED's offices more than 40 times between 2010 and 2018, including visits as recently as October 2018."
  • The report adds: "Epstein was routinely accompanied on these visits by young women, described as being in their 20s, who acted as his assistants."

Black confirms to Axios via a spokesperson that he was introduced to Nowak by Epstein, and says that the funds he gave to Nowak were not "provided by Mr. Epstein."

The bottom line: At MIT, Black was viewed as a donor who owed Epstein favors, and who could be relied on to provide cash at Epstein's behest. Black has an MBA from Harvard, making donations to his alma mater look slightly less suspicious. But they do seem to follow the same pattern.

Go deeper: How Jeffrey Epstein supported Harvard after his conviction

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