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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Former Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black on Monday filed a 52-page legal response to Guzel Ganieva, who sued the former private equity titan last month for defamation and sexual assault. In short, he calls her complaint "a work of fiction," and also countersued Ganieva for defamation and breach of contract.

Background: Ganieva, a Russian immigrant and former model, had claimed that Black made her financially indebted to him via a pair of large loans, and then used that leverage for sexual gratification.

  • Black, who previously acknowledged having what he called a "consensual" affair with Ganieva, argues that the financial pressure came in the opposite direction, via a $100 million extortion plot.

Read Ganeiva's complaint.

Read Black's response.

What's in Black's filing: He claims to have "irrefutable documentary evidence," via text messages and recorded phone calls, to support his defense, and says he's seeking to learn whether Ganieva "is acting alone or is working in concert with" others.

  • It's unclear if Black believes that possible third party is in some way related to the succession fight at Apollo Global Management, the firm he co-founded and recently left after an investigation into his personal dealings with Jeffrey Epstein.
  • He also flatly denies the sexual assault allegation, arguing it's contradicted by contemporaneous text messages.

What's not in Black's filing: The nondisclosure agreement that both Black and Ganieva agree she signed, but which Ganieva claims she signed under duress and of which she claims not to have a copy.

  • Also missing are full transcripts of text message and recorded phone conversations.

The bottom line: These sorts of lurid disputes involving billionaires are usually settled quietly behind closed doors. This one is setting up to be litigated in open court.

Go deeper

Everyone wants to be an influencer

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The number of people looking to become online influencers has exploded during the pandemic.

Why it matters: Almost anyone can find themselves in a position to become an influencer, and brands are throwing billions of dollars at online content creators.

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries to passengers and crew on Saturday, per authorities and a company statement.

The big picture: 141 passengers and 16 crew members were estimated to be on the Empire Builder train, traveling from Chicago to Seattle and Portland, when eight of the 10 cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak said early Sunday.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.