A newly minted board member at Apollo Global Management said he’s stepping down over a conflict of interest — and he insists that it’s not the conflict of interest some have been guessing.
Earlier this month, the private-equity giant revealed in a little-noticed securities filing that Siddhartha Mukherjee — an oncologist and Pulitzer Prize winner who lately has become a COVID vaccine guru — “will not stand for reelection” after he completes a one-year stint as an independent director on Apollo’s board that began March 1.
“I have a conflict because I am being vetted for a major inter-governmental position,” Mukherjee told The Post, declining to elaborate further on the new gig. The timing of his exit “depends on when the vetting process is completed,” but will likely be before his term expires next March, he said.
Mukherjee joins a recent stampede that has included, first and foremost, Apollo’s former chairman and chief executive Leon Black, who announced his surprise departure on March 22 amid growing questions about his financial ties to Jeffrey Epstein. Black paid the dead pedophile $158 million for tax- and estate-planning services after Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
Immediately before his exit, Black was also hit with accusations of sexual misconduct from an ex-Russian model, according to court docs. Black denied the allegations, claiming he was being extorted. His accuser, Guzel Ganieva, filed a defamation suit in response. Amid those controversies, other departing board members have included New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Kraft has not been accused of any wrongdoing related to Black, and a source said Kraft’s exit was his own idea.
But as reported by The Post in an exclusive April 25 story, Mukherjee’s appointment had particularly raised eyebrows, along with speculation that he was part of a plan by Black to keep influence over Apollo’s board even as he stepped down.
That’s because Mukherjee’s wife, the artist Sarah Sze, has lately been a beneficiary of Black, who was among the donors of a 2018 sculpture by Sze to the Storm King Arts Center in New Windsor, NY. Black’s Phaidon Press published the first major study of Sze’s work in 2016. Black also was chair of the Museum of Modern Art when it hosted an art installation by Sze.
Mukherjee told The Post his wife’s affiliation with Leon Black “has nothing to do with anything” when it comes to his decision to leave Apollo’s board.
Another source close to Apollo begged to differ, speculating that Sze “wasn’t down with that reputational heat.”
An Apollo spokesperson declined to comment, but previously rejected speculation that Black maintained influence over the Board through the new directors. “It is disappointing that the integrity and independence of such highly accomplished individuals is being questioned by anonymous, unsubstantiated accusations,” Apollo said at the time.
In its June 11 filing, Apollo said, “Physician and scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee, whose counsel has added great value over the past few months, has informed Apollo that he will not stand for reelection after his term is complete. He will continue to provide advice to the company on technology matters after the completion of his term.”