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The Billionaire Who Stood by Jeffrey Epstein


Mr. Epstein portrayed himself as a financial guru to the wealthy, although for many years his chief client was Mr. Wexner, the founder of L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret. Mr. Epstein was first publicly accused of engaging in sex with underage girls in 2006, and Mr. Wexner said he cut ties with Mr. Epstein at the end of the following year. (Mr. Wexner said last year that Mr. Epstein had misappropriated “vast sums” from him; Mr. Epstein had returned at least $100 million to Mr. Wexner, The Times has reported.)

In 2008, Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to a state prostitution charge with a minor and served 13 months in jail there as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors — an arrangement that was kept confidential at the time. He kept a low profile for the next decade, but after an investigation by The Miami Herald drew attention to his plea deal, federal prosecutors in New York charged Mr. Epstein with sex trafficking in July 2019. His death the next month in a Manhattan jail cell was ruled a suicide.

Mr. Black knew Mr. Epstein for decades — in 1997 he made Mr. Epstein one of the original trustees of what is today called the Debra and Leon Black Foundation — and was among the high-profile figures who maintained ties with him following his prostitution arrest. They included Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder; Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard; James E. Staley, now the chief executive of Barclays; and the hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin and his wife, Eva.

Most of those who kept in contact with Mr. Epstein after his conviction now contend it was a mistake and say they do not condone his actions.

Last year, Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gates, said: “Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognizes it was an error in judgment to do so.” Mr. Staley has said he had no contact with Mr. Epstein after 2015 and that he was “transparent and open” with Barclays about his past ties. The Dubins have said they were “horrified and unaware by the new allegations” against Mr. Epstein. And Mr. Summers has said Mr. Epstein never did any advisory work for him and his dealings were limited.

Mr. Epstein frequently hosted Mr. Black at his New York mansion, usually meeting him for breakfast or lunch, according to four people familiar with their relationship. In 2012, while on a family vacation in the Caribbean, Mr. Black traveled by yacht to attend a cookout at Mr. Epstein’s private island residence in the U.S. Virgin Islands, two of the people said.

In 2011, Mr. Epstein’s financial advisory firm — Financial Trust — joined Mr. Black and members of his family in investing in a small emissions control company, Environmental Solutions Worldwide, where two of Mr. Black’s sons serve as board members. The company did not respond to requests for comment.



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