Leon Black, a billionaire friend of Jeffrey Epstein who previously paid him several million dollars just for some financial advice, is now funding a bid to run the UK National Lottery.

According to a report in Mail Online, Leon Black's private equity fund Apollo Global Management has invested £450million in a Czech firm, Sazka, which runs lotteries in Eastern Europe, to help it develop new business including the UK lottery.

To be noted, the UK lottery bid by Sazka is being fronted by Sir Keith Mills, a close friend of Prince Harry. Mills was also the chairman of Harry's elder brother Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton's charity, The Royal Foundation, until last month.

The National Lottery has been operated by Camelot ever since it started in 1994, and made a £98million profit last year. The franchise comes up for renewal every ten years, and the Gambling Commission will announce the new operator in September this year. Apart from Camelot and Sazka, an Indian firm called Sugal and Damani is bidding for the franchise this year.

Black's investment in the bid comes soon after he announced he is planning to step down as the CEO of Apollo in the summer, when he turns 70. He made the announcement following an inquiry by his own company over his association with Jeffrey Epstein.

Black has shared a close friendship with the late convicted paedophile and even visited his private island in the Caribbean after he was freed from a jail term in 2008. During the visit, the Wall Street mogul paid Epstein £120million for financial advice.

A report by law firm Dechert, which was ordered by the rest of Apollo's board last year, says that Black's payment saved Epstein several million in tax. Black had also loaned the disgraced financier £24million, of which only £8milllion was repaid. Several reports emerged last year that he also paid millions to an aircraft firm for Epstein's private jet.

He is one of the personalities who have been investigated over their ties to the convicted sex offender. While Epstein's other A-list friends, including Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew cut off their ties with him after his crimes came to light, Black continued meeting him and helping him financially. The friendship continued until 2018, the year before Epstein was arrested again and later killed himself in jail.

In his defence, Black said he regrets his decision to "give Epstein a second chance" and dubbed continuing the friendship a "terrible mistake." Meanwhile, the Dechert report insists that Black was not aware of Epstein's involvement with underage girls.

Leon Black
Black has made his billions through Apollo Global Management, the private equity firm he founded in 1990. Reuters