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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Rick Friedman/Corbis/Getty Images

458 days. That's how long it's been since Axios first asked Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black to explain why he donated $10 million to Jeffrey Epstein's charity after he pleaded guilty to felony prostitution with an underage girl. Still no reply.

1 day: That's how long it's been since the New York Times reported that the $10 million donation was just the tip of an inexplicable iceberg.

The state of play: It now appears that Black wired Epstein at least $50 million in the decade after Epstein's conviction, only ending the relationship in 2018 after a "fee dispute."

  • By 2018, anyone with a working Google knew about the serious allegations against Epstein — many of which became public during the 2016 presidential campaign because of Epstein's ties to both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
  • And Black certainly knew about the earlier guilty pleas, since it appeared to be the reason Epstein preemptively departed the board of Black's family foundation in 2007 (despite some paperwork discrepancies).

Why it matters: Black runs one of the world's largest and most powerful investment firms.

  • He has steadfastly maintained that none of his Epstein payments had anything to do with Apollo, reiterated in a letter sent yesterday to limited partners in Apollo funds (read letter here).
  • But that doesn't address the fundamental issue of why Black continued to engage with Epstein. Was it just bad judgement, turning a blind eye or giving Epstein the undeserved benefit of the doubt? Was it a complete and total failure of due diligence? Or was it an attempt at self-preservation?

Asking that last part may strike some as unfair, particularly given that Black's LP letter claims that his family accompanied him on his only trip to Epstein's private island and that his visits to Epstein's townhouse were caused by Epstein's lack of a separate office.

  • But Black has steadfastly refused to specify exactly what Epstein did for him — save for generalities about things like tax and estate planning. Remember that Epstein was neither a certified accountant nor a broker-dealer. And Leon Black could have hired any advisors he wanted.
  • In January Black was interviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek for an extensive cover story, but Epstein was the one topic he refused to address.
  • Black did say in his LP letter that he'll cooperate with any and all investigations, including an ongoing one in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Investor reactions: None of this has had a lasting negative impact on Apollo's share price or ability to raise private funds, although perhaps that's changing as Apollo shares are down around 10% from their Friday close.

The bottom line: Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Black's continuing refusal to discuss these issues, save for under subpoena, has evolved from perplexing to problematic. Again, 458 days and counting.

Go deeper: Axios Re:Cap spoke with Matthew Goldstein, the NY Times biz reporter who co-authored yesterday's report. Listen via Apple, Spotify, or Axios.

Go deeper

Black Americans are more skeptical of a coronavirus vaccine

Data: KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

Strikingly large shares of Black Americans say they would be reluctant to get a coronavirus vaccine — even if it was free and had been deemed safe by scientists, according to a new nationwide survey from KFF and The Undefeated.

Why it matters: The findings reflect well-founded distrust of government and health care institutions, and they underscore the need for credible outreach efforts when a vaccine is distributed. Otherwise, distribution could fail to effectively reach the Black community, which has been disproportionately affected by coronavirus.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 13, 2020 - Science

Watching a star's death by black hole

Scientists have spotted a bright flash of light emitted by a star as it was destroyed by a black hole 215 million light-years away.

Why it matters: Black holes are some of the most extreme and difficult to study objects in the universe, and these types of rare events could help researchers piece together more about their nature.

Oct 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

"Souls to the polls" during COVID-19

Students get off a Black Votes Matter bus in Fayetteville, N.C., in March. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The coronavirus has complicated the get-out-the-vote effort for Black churches in 2020.

Why it matters: Those churches are a key part of broader efforts in the Black community to push back against voter suppression tactics, the AP reports.