Apollo's Rowan says accepted CEO role 'for the opportunity'

FILE PHOTO: Marc Rowan, Co-Founder and Senior Managing Director, Apollo Global Management, LLC, takes part in a panel discussion in Beverly Hills, California April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

(Reuters) - Apollo Global Management Inc co-founder Marc Rowan said on Wednesday he returned from a sabbatical to succeed Leon Black as chief executive because of the opportunity to run the private equity firm.

Black said last month he would relinquish the CEO role but remain Apollo’s board chairman following a review of his ties to the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The review found Black paid Epstein $158 million for advice on tax and estate planning and related services between 2012 and 2017, but cleared him of any wrongdoing. Rowan is set to take over the reins from Black by July.

“The opportunity, nothing other than that, and in the middle of a pandemic taking a sabbatical is never a good idea,” Rowan said during the Credit Suisse Financial Services Forum when asked why he wanted the role.

Apollo named former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton as its lead independent director last week. It was the latest in a series of changes to improve its corporate governance that include adding more independent director, pursuing a “one share, one vote” shareholding structure, and aiming for addition into the S&P 500 index.

Rowan, 58, said he expected Apollo’s newly-expanded board will approve the proposed voting structure and possible index inclusion in a couple of months.

“I would expect this would resolve itself one way or another by our first quarter earnings call. I see a lot of potential benefits to being eligible for the index,” he said.

As CEO, Rowan said he plans to focus on strategy and culture, while leaving day-to-day operations to Apollo co-presidents Scott Kleinman and James Zelter, who have joined Apollo’s board.

“I have been careful to define those places where I can add value - the so-called lanes. Two of the most obvious one is strategy, the other is culture,” Rowan said.

Reporting by Chibuike Oguh in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy