Leon Black, the billionaire co-founder of Apollo Global Management Inc., is stepping down as chairman of the investment giant in an unexpected move that is the latest in a governance overhaul kicked off by revelations of his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Apollo also said Monday that co-founder Marc Rowan had formally assumed the title of chief executive officer from Mr. Black, a transition the New York firm announced in January, saying then that it would take place before Mr. Black’s 70th birthday on July 31.
The firm had previously said Mr. Black would be staying on as chairman. Instead, he is ceding the role to former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, who was named lead independent director last month.
Mr. Black cited health issues of himself and his wife in announcing his step back. Debra Black was diagnosed with stage two melanoma more than a decade ago, and the couple has given hundreds of millions of dollars to fund research into the disease through a foundation they established in 2007. She has continued to struggle with the disease in recent months, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Black, meanwhile, has been battling his own health issues for the past several weeks, the person said.
The move is the latest in a series of changes at the firm since the conclusion of an independent review into ties between Mr. Black and Epstein. The review, by law firm Dechert LLP, revealed that Mr. Black paid Epstein a total of $158 million for tax- and estate-planning services, far more than was previously known.