It may be that the average patron of Huddle House or Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, a pair of chains that specialize in hearty breakfasts at more than 600 locations across the US, has never heard of Leon Black.
But Black happens to be the owner of both family-dining chains through his investment firm, Elysium Management. He’s also a New York billionaire who grabbed headlines this spring when he left the helm of Apollo Global Management amid controversy over his ties to the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
It also may be the case that Michael Abt, the chief executive of the two chains, was assuming on May 26 when he wrote a letter to franchisees — titled “The Right Way Is the Only Way” — that none of them had been reading the papers recently. Or, at least, that’s the best some franchisees can guess.
That’s because Abt’s letter, a lengthy meditation on “integrity” that tackles everything from horse-doping at the Kentucky Derby to the New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” scandal, also cites the example of Epstein.
“Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and Wall Street financier Jeffrey Epstein used their enormous wealth and industry sway to lure young girls and women into lurid situations in exchange for cash or favors,” Abt writes. “One is dead and the other is locked up for life.”
Nowhere in his 1,490-word missive does Abt mention the fact that the owner of Huddle House and Perkins has recently been ensnared in a stink over his ties to Epstein — a mess during which he has not only stepped down from the top job at Apollo but also his seat as chairman of the Museum of Modern Art.
In March, Black had been busy explaining why he shelled out $158 million to Epstein for tax- and estate-planning services when an ex-Russian model, Guzel Ganieva, unleashed an explosive series of tweets saying she was “sexually harassed and abused” by Black for years.
Black denied her claims, saying the pair had a “consensual affair.”
In response, Ganieva filed a defamation suit against Black this month in which she detailed graphic rape allegations dating back to 2014.
“Ms. Ganieva’s allegations of harassment and other inappropriate behavior are categorically untrue,” Black said at the time. “This frivolous lawsuit is riddled with lies, and is nothing more than a wholesale fiction.”
Whatever the outcome of that case, some franchisees at the Huddle House and Perkins wish their CEO would just get back to the bacon, eggs and pancakes.
“Perhaps a company owned by Black’s Elysium Management should refrain from espousing opinions concerning social issues and focus on business,” one Huddle House franchisee said.
The companies declined to comment.