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Jeffrey Epstein-plagued Leon Black to step down as MoMA chairman

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Leon Black is stepping down as chair of the Museum of Modern Art in the wake of artist protests over his ties to convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, The Post has learned.

The billionaire co-founder of private equity giant Apollo Global Management announced his decision at a virtual board meeting on Friday, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

At the meeting, Black told his fellow trustees he would give up the chairman role when his current three-year term ends on June 30, sources said. The billionaire financier plans to remain on the board, however, as one of MoMA’s 57 trustees, these sources said.

MoMA’s Executive Committee, which consists of a smaller subset of board members, will meet on the matter on March 30 and then bring the discussion to the rest of the board for a possible vote later that day, a source close to the situation said.

The Post exclusively reported on March 14 that MoMA had moved its regularly scheduled board meeting twice since February as a select group of MoMA trustees talked with Black about his future as the head of the storied museum and whether he should step down. Details of Friday’s meeting were first reported by the New York Times.

Black will have served just one term as MoMa's chief compared to 11 years at the helm by his predecessor, real estate mogul Jerry Speyer
Black will have served just one term as MoMa’s chief compared to 11 years at the helm by his predecessor, real estate mogul Jerry Speyer
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MoMA has come under pressure to part ways with Black after it emerged in January that he paid $158 million for tax and estate planning advice to Epstein following a 2008 guilty plea for soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl.

Prominent artists like Ai Weiwei and photographer Nan Goldin have called on Epstein to step down. The museum was also facing a 10-week “strike” against it, which would have taken the form of protests and other public demonstrations starting April 9.

Black has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But he agreed to step down as Apollo CEO in January in the wake of criticisms over his eye-popping payments to the convicted sex offender.

Then earlier this week, he surprised watchers when he said he would be giving up the Apollo chairman’s role that he had vowed to keep in January, while also announcing plans to step down as CEO effective immediately, citing health concerns. He had initially said he would give up the CEO reins at Apollo on July 31.

Black will have served just one term as MoMa’s chief compared to 11 years at the helm by his predecessor, real estate mogul Jerry Speyer.

The board could still face questions, however, about keeping Black on as a director, as well as its continued ties to fellow Glenn Dubin, a fellow MoMA trustee who, together with his wife Eva, had a personal relationship with Epstein before and after his 2008 conviction.

“I think this is a serious cop out,” one source close to the board said. “It allows Dubin to stay on” as a MoMA director.

Black and Dubin declined comment. A MoMA spokeswoman did not return calls.

Epstein committed suicide in prison a month after he was arrested a second time in 2019 and charged with running a sex trafficking operation involving dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14.

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Glasses retailer Warby Parker eyeing IPO as soon as this year

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Hipster glasses retailer Warby Parker is eyeing an initial public offering.

The 11-year-old business, which started out as an e-tailer before rolling out some 130 stores across the US, is considering an IPO as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The New York-based company has amassed a huge customer following by offering less expensive prescription glasses. Warby Parker raised $120 million in its most recent funding round giving it a $3 billion valuation, according to the report.

“We’ve always explored various financing opportunities in both the debt and equity markets,” the company said in a statement. “To date, we have successfully and deliberately raised money within the private market on favorable terms and have plenty of cash on our balance sheet. We’ll continue to make strategic decisions in line with our commitment to sustainable growth.”

Founded by college buddies Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who met at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker has attracted some large investors including the mutual fund company, T. Rowe Price.

It turned it first profit in 2018, Gilboa told The New York Times at the time.

Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Customers can get prescriptions through their apps on their smartphones and use cameras to pick out frames. The company also has an optical lab in Sloatsburg, NY where it produces lenses.

While Warby Parker is not the least expensive option, it beats Costco in a recent comparison with Costco charging as little a $126 for a pair of prescription glasses compared with Warby Parker’s least expensive pair at $95.

“As consumer walk into a LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut, they see 50 different brands of glasses but don’t realize that all those brands are owned by the same company that owns the store that they’re standing in, that probably owns the vision insurance plan they’r using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in a recent CNBC interview.

“And so, it’s no surprise that a lot of those glasses are marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture,” he said.

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Dogecoin hits new high boosted by DogeDay hashtags

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Dogecoin prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, with a market capitalization above $50 billion, after social media fans used hashtags to fuel a rally in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

An 8,000 percent price surge this year has seen Dogecoin, which was launched as a satirical critique of 2013′s cryptocurrency frenzy, overtake more widely-used cryptocurrencies like Tether to become the fifth-largest coin.

While Dogecoin, whose logo features a Shiba Inu dog at the center of the meme, a represents only a fraction of bitcoin’s $1 trillion value, it can be traded on crypto exchanges and more popular mainstream trading apps.

“The Doge rally represents an interesting convergence,” said Diana Biggs, CEO of crypto start-up Valour, after Dogecoin’s price soared by more than five-fold in the last week to a record 42 cents, according to CoinMarketCap.

“A meme coin created as a joke for early crypto adopters whose community found that kind of thing to be fun, with now a new generation of retail investors for whom memes are a native language,” Biggs added.

Dogecoin fans used the hashtags #DogeDay and #DogeDay420 to post memes, messages and videos on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok, referring to the informal April 20 holiday to celebrate cannabis which is marked by smoke-ins and street parties.

“GIMME THAT DOGECOIN LAMBO!!! #DogeDay” one tweeted, referring to the Lamborghini car popular in crypto culture.

Dogecoin’s rise has come amid a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not coincided with a growth in usage of the coin for payments or in commerce.

The same trend has spurred a boom in usage of online trading apps like Robinhood, and also fueled the social-media driven rally in GameStop stock that pitted retail investors against hedge funds earlier this year.

“It’s an extension of the same phenomenon that has led Tesla stock to be valued well beyond fundamentals and more recently to the GME (GameStop) short squeeze,” said Ajit Tripathi, head of institutional business at decentralised finance startup Aave.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin’s price is heavily influenced by social media users including Tesla chief Elon Musk, whose tweets on the cryptocurrency in February sent its price soaring over 60 percent.

“If this goes as planned and everybody including Mr. Musk go ahead and just pour money into Doge on April 20th all at once Doge will reach prices that originally were not even conceptual,” a TikTok user said in a video promoting the coin.



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Amazon is opening a beauty salon in London

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Amazon is opening a hair salon in London — its latest odd lurch into new businesses as the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce giant’s torrid growth.

The Amazon Salon, unveiled in a Tuesday blog post, will occupy a two-story, 1,500-square-foot space in Spitalfields, a trendy neighborhood in East London that is also home to Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.

Indeed, the new salon, which will be open seven days a week, initially will only cater to Amazon workers. Members of the public will be able to make bookings in “the coming weeks” by calling, emailing or visiting the salon, the company says.

“This will be an experiential venue where we showcase new products and technology,” Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to open other salons.

That will include making Amazon’s Fire tablets available at each station, allowing customers to use augmented reality technology to see what they look like as a platinum blonde, brunette or with highlights, the company said.

The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
Amazon

The salon will also test new “point-and-learn” technology, where customers can point at a product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen.

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