As Apollo makes license bid for Sands, founder alleges conspiracy against co-founder 

Says real-life ‘Succession’ plan spurred ‘war council’ 

By: - February 1, 2022 5:09 am

(Photo credit: The Venetian Resort® Las Vegas)

When Apollo Global Management appears before the Nevada Gaming Control Board Wednesday in its bid to purchase the operations of the Venetian and Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip, it will do so without Leon Black and Joshua Harris, the top executives who stood before regulators when the company won a license for a leveraged buyout of Caesars Entertainment in 2008. 

Black, AGM’s founder and still its largest shareholder, stepped down last year after 30 years as chairman when news broke that he paid convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein $165 million for financial advice.  Black is also under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney for an alleged sexual assault at Epstein’s Manhattan home, according to a news report citing sources. 

In a lawsuit filed last week, Black alleges Harris, who he once named co-founder, is out to destroy him over Black’s choice of a successor, Marc Rowan. 

“Seeing his long-held dream of becoming CEO or Co-CEO crushed with Mr. Rowan’s ascension, … Mr. Harris kicked into high gear his campaign to destroy Mr. Black,” the suit says. “Like Shakespeare’s Iago, enraged by being passed over for promotion, he turned his wrath on his mentor and leader.”

Harris, according to the suit, convened a “war council” composed of law firms, public relations agencies, and political consulting firms to work against AGM’s interests.  He also left the company last year. 

Black claims Harris is also behind a conspiracy “to retaliate and destroy him by, among other things, weaponizing” a woman with whom Black had an affair “to assassinate his character and extort even more from him.”

Black admits to making secret payments of $100,000 a month, beginning in 2015, to Guzel Ganieva to keep their relationship confidential. Ganieva alleges in her own suit that Black sexually assaulted her when she refused his overtures.  

“Leon Black has taken victim-shaming of sexual assault victims to a stratospheric level,” Ganieva’s attorney, Jeanne Christensen of Wigdor LLP, said in a statement to the Current. 

Black contends in the suit that Ganieva demanded $100 million and threatened to reveal the relationship “to his wife and Apollo’s board, as well as the press, if he did not pay her.”

Nevada gaming regulators, who approved Caesars Entertainment’s bankruptcy restructuring in 2017, were either not interested or unaware of the secret monthly payments from Black to Ganieva.  

Longtime gaming attorney Frank Schreck, who represents AGM, says he was not involved in the company’s restructuring.  

Schreck, a former member of the Nevada Gaming Commission, is the attorney who arranged for a corporate shell to secretly make $7.5 million in payments to a Wynn Las Vegas manicurist who claimed she was raped and impregnated by Steve Wynn in 2005, according to the Massachussetts Gaming Commission’s 2019 report on Wynn and his previous empire.  

Massachusetts regulators, conducting an investigation into Wynn Resort’s gaming application in that state, asked Schreck if the purpose of the LLC was to hide Wynn’s identity. 

“Not just Steve Wynn,” said Schreck, who told investigators he represented both Wynn and the hotel. “Just so this whole settlement would be maintained on the confidential agreements.”

“No evidence surfaced during this investigation showing that in 2005, anyone with knowledge of (the manicurist’s) allegations or the settlement disclosed the matter to the Nevada Gaming Control Board,” Massachusetts investigators wrote. “Their efforts at secrecy made it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for gaming regulators to detect this potentially derogatory information through typical regulatory means, which rely heavily on robust self-disclosures.”

Schreck told Massachusetts investigators the manicurist’s attorney initially alleged his client was raped by Wynn. 

“At that point, I said, if that’s your position, then this is not a civil case, it’s a criminal case, and this conversation ends,” Schreck told investigators. “And he backed off of that immediately, and we then went ahead and discussed whatever the next moves would be in terms of trying to resolve the case.” 

The Nevada GCB fined Wynn Resorts $20 million in 2019 for failing to conduct an investigation into the 2005 allegation. Schreck’s law firm drew up the stipulated agreement between the hotel and the state.   

The ten-count complaint against Wynn Las Vegas filed by Nevada gaming officials makes no mention of Schreck’s role in concealing the $7.5 million in payments. 

Schreck, who is expected to represent AGM before the GCB this week, would not respond to whether Black’s status as majority stockholder of AGM is expected to be an issue in the licensing.  

Apollo is offering $2.25 billion for the LV Sands operations, while VICI Properties, a real estate investment trust, will pay $4 billion for the real estate.  

A spokesman for the Gaming Control Board had no comment when asked whether Chairman J. Brin Gibson will abstain from the AGM matter.  Gibson, an attorney, worked for Schreck’s law firm in 2020.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.