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How did Jeffrey Epstein make all of his money?

Inside the newly released Epstein documents
Explaining the newly released Epstein documents 05:30

Newly released legal documents are renewing focus on Jeffrey Epstein, with public scrutiny of the court papers also reigniting interest in the late sex offender's wealth and how he amassed it. 

Accused of abusing dozens of teenage girls before dying by suicide in a federal prison in 2019, the politically connected multimillionaire never graduated from college, but still wound up socializing with a range of major public figures, from former U.S. presidents and software moguls to members of the British royal family.

The grandson of Jewish immigrants, Epstein was raised in Brooklyn, where he excelled in math and graduated from high school early, briefly attending Cooper Union and New York University, according to published reports over the years by multiple news outlets, some citing court documents.

The roughly 60 documents released as of Thursday mostly mention names already known. In fact, the judge who made the call last month to release the information said she was doing so largely because much of it was already public.

Still, the plan to make the papers public fueled rumors that they contained a list of clients or co-conspirators, and misinformation about their content continues to run rampant on social media, the Associated Press reported.

What was Jeffrey Epstein's net worth?

At the time when the disgraced financier was found dead at 66 in a Manhattan jail cell in August of 2019, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, a filing in his criminal case pegged his net worth at roughly $560 million. Epstein's assets also included a number of lavish properties. 

Epstein owned a palatial townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan worth more than $50 million. He also owned a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, worth about $12 million; a ranch in New Mexico valued at just over $17 million; and an apartment in Paris worth an estimated $8.6 million. 

Financier Teenage Girls
This photo shows the Manhattan residence of Jeffrey Epstein on July 8, 2019.  Bebeto Matthews / AP

His two private Caribbean islands — Great St. James and Little St. James — were together valued at $86 million following his death, but purchased for $60 million in 2023 by billionaire Stephen Deckoff, founder of alternative investment firm Black Diamond Capital Management. Epstein also owned a private jet.

What did Jeffrey Epstein do for a living?

While in his early 20s, Epstein in 1974 started teaching math at The Dalton School, one of New York's most prestigious prep schools, and left in 1976, with an administrator telling the New York Times he'd dismissed Epstein for poor performance. 

But the stint at Dalton had him tutoring the son of Bear Stearns CEO Alan Greenberg, which led to a job at the investment bank before it collapsed in 2008 following the housing crash. Epstein then became a money manager for billionaires including Les Wexner, founder and CEO of L Brands, and Apollo Global Management Chairman Leon Black. Black paid Epstein $158 million for tax and estate planning services, according to the Senate Finance Committee. 

A law firm retained by Apollo's board to review Black's dealings with Epstein cleared Black, who stepped down as chairman and CEO of the private equity firm in 2021, of any possible wrongdoing. 

Black in July of 2023 agreed to pay $62.5 million to the U.S. Virgin Islands to be released from any potential claims arising from the territory's probe into Epstein's sex trafficking operation. The four-page settlement stipulated that it didn't constitute an "admission of liability" by Black, according to the New York Times.

For more than a decade, Epstein was Wexner's personal money manager and business adviser, making hundreds of millions of dollars managing Wexner's billions. 

"Epstein's crimes are abhorrent, and we applaud every effort to bring justice to those harmed," L Brands told CBS MoneyWatch in 2019. 

Wexner said in an email to employees at the time that he regretted he ever "crossed paths" with Epstein. "When Mr. Epstein was my personal money manager, he was involved in many aspects of my financial life," the email stated. "But let me assure you that I was NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment."

Where else did Epstein get his money?

JPMorgan Chase loaned Epstein money and regularly let him withdraw large sums of cash from 1998 through August 2013, according to a class-action lawsuit settled by the nation's largest bank last year. Payouts are expected to be made to nearly 200 women.

In an emailed statement to CBS MoneyWatch in June of 2023, JPMorgan called Epstein's behavior "monstrous," and said it regretted any association with the disgraced financier. 

Epstein also had financial dealings with Deutsche Bank, which in May 2023 agreed to pay $75 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the German bank "knowingly benefited" from his sex trafficking and profited from doing business with him.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the settlement. In 2020, it acknowledged its "error of onboarding Epstein in 2013 and the weaknesses in our processes."

For how much did he buy his islands?

Epstein owned two neighboring islands. He paid $7.95 million in 1998 for the 75-acre Little St. James, according to the New York Post and New York Magazine. In 2016, Epstein paid more than $20 million for the 165-acre Great St. James, according to CNBC and the Wall Street Journal.

Jeffrey Epstein's former home on the island of Little St. James in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Emily Michot/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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