(Bloomberg) — Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein introduced Wall Street financier Leon Black to a pair of Harvard University professors whose work Black then supported with millions of dollars, a review by the college found.
The finding, part of a report Harvard released Friday, reflects the many interactions Epstein enjoyed with a who’s who of academic and corporate figures. In addition to Black, the founder and chief executive officer of Apollo Global Management Inc., one of the world’s largest private equity funds, that circle included former U.S. president Bill Clinton and the retail billionaire Leslie Wexner. They mostly distanced themselves from Epstein after his arrest last July on charges of sex-trafficking girls.
Epstein was a regular presence at Harvard even after his conviction on an earlier set of sex crime charges in 2008, the review found. He visited the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus as recently as two years ago, one of more than 40 trips there between 2010 and 2018, often accompanied by young women who acted as his assistants, according to the report.
In the course of his association with Harvard, he acquainted the Apollo CEO with the genetic and evolutionary research of the two professors, who found in Black a welcome source of funds after Harvard barred any further donations from Epstein, the university said.
“The report issued today describes principled decision-making but also reveals institutional and individual shortcomings that must be addressed — not only for the sake of the University but also in recognition of the courageous individuals who sought to bring Epstein to justice,” Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said in announcing the results of the review.
A spokesman for Apollo declined to comment on the report. Emails to the Black family’s press contacts at Sard Verbinnen weren’t immediately returned.
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The review confirmed that the university accepted $9.1 million in donations from Epstein for a decade starting in 1998 and took no gifts from him after his 2008 conviction, Bacow said.
Epstein’s donations have also roiled the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Joi Ito, who headed MIT’s storied Media Lab, was revealed last year to have solicited donations from Epstein after the conviction despite warnings from the faculty to shun him. Ito stepped down in September.
One of the two Harvard professors, George Church, is a geneticist and leader of the Personal Genome Project that sequences people’s DNA for public use and research, and has started numerous genetics companies. Epstein was fascinated by this area and regularly interacted with an array of its top academics. He denied wrongdoing in last year’s case and committed suicide in his jail cell in August.
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His $6.5 million gift to the university in 2003 established Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, led by Professor Martin Nowak, a scholar of mathematics and biology. Nowak continued to push for donations, either from Epstein or with his help, even after Drew Faust, then Harvard’s president, said the school would no longer take his money, the report said. It said Nowak let Epstein use the program’s website to promote himself. Harvard said it has put Nowak on administrative leave.
Nowak and Church didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the review.
Personally and through his foundation, Black donated $9 million to support the work of the two professors between 2010 and 2015, according to the report. The donations, $7 million to Nowak and $2 million to Church, were a result of introductions made by Epstein, the review found.
A section titled “Epstein’s Role in Securing Support from Others” details gifts to the university from Black. Once Nowak realized he could no longer get funding from Epstein, he had to look elsewhere to pay the rent on his program’s facilities, Harvard found. Black said Epstein played no role in directing his donations, according to the report.
Over the past decade, Black has donated about $20 million to Harvard “in support of a variety of charitable projects and causes,” the report said.
Even after the 2008 conviction, Black continued to meet with Epstein from time to time at Apollo’s New York offices, and let him pitch personal tax strategies to the firm’s executives, according to people familiar with the matter.
To conduct the review, Harvard officials interviewed more than 40 people and reviewed more than 250,000 pages of documents, according to a letter from general counsel Diane Lopez.
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(Updates with details starting in fifth paragraph)
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