Leon Black, under fire, will reportedly not seek re-election as MoMA’s board chairman

Tumult over his former business ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein brought pressure for him to step down

Leon Black, chairman of the board of trustees at the Museum of Modern Art Alamy

Leon Black, the embattled chairman of the board of trustees at the Museum of Modern Art, will not seek re-election to that post after controversy over his financial ties to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, The New York Times reports.

The newspaper, citing two unnamed sources, says that Black announced his decision to the board’s executive committee at a remote meeting today and plans to inform the full board of his withdrawal from consideration when it meets next week. The election of a new chairman is expected in June, the Times says, and Black is expected to remain on the board after stepping down from the top role. He has served as the museum’s board chairman since 2018.

The billionaire financier has drawn fire from a number of artists and backers of MoMA since it was revealed in January that he paid $158m to Epstein for tax and advisory services after Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl. In July 2019, Epstein was arrested and jailed in New York after additional charges of sexually abusing under-age girls, and the following month he was found hanging in his cell in what a medical examiner ruled a suicide.

After an independent review by a law firm disclosed Black’s $158m in payments to Epstein from 2012 to 2017, Black announced in January that he would step down this year as chief executive of the private equity firm he led, Apollo Global Management. He said he would remain as chairman: the law firm’s review had found no wrongdoing on his part in relation to Epstein.

But on Monday, the firm announced that Black had quit both as chief executive and chairman, citing health problems faced by the financier and his wife.

Among the many artists who have been calling for Black’s departure from MoMA are Ai Weiwei, Nan Goldin and the Guerrilla Girls collective. And a coalition of activist groups, citing Black’s business ties and other factors that it said tarnished the museum, announced this week that it would begin waging a 10-week “strike” against MoMA on 9 April.