Leon Black From the Ashes

leon black
How did the brilliant Leon Black concede such vital, complex, and personal estate planning matters to a college drop-out, former Dalton math teacher who would go on to be exposed as one of the most despicable scumbags in modern memory? Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo
William D. Cohan
April 3, 2024

On a recent afternoon, Leon Black and I were sitting at his family office, Elysium Partners, on the top floor of a nondescript building on Park Avenue, near 57th Street. He said he chose the space not for the building’s architecture, but rather because it had a big wrap-around balcony that was lovely in the warmer months. We were having a light lunch, along with his P.R. team, of deli sandwiches, making small talk before engaging in the matter at hand—discussing how Black’s extraordinary career had been upended by his seemingly inexplicable relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

Prior to 2019, of course, Black had enjoyed one of the most charmed runs in the history of finance. The descendant of a long line of orthodox rabbis, he attended Fieldston, Dartmouth, and Harvard Business School; survived the harrowing suicide of his father, also a former orthodox rabbi, who became an immensely successful corporate C.E.O. before jumping out of the Pan Am building during Leon’s second year at Harvard; and then became head of M&A at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the hard-charging investment bank that was famously brought to ruin by the misdeeds of Michael Milken, the genius creator of the junk-bond market.