Billionaire financier and investor Thomas H. Lee has been found dead with self-inflicted injuries at his Manhattan office, police sources said.
Cops responded to a 911 call at 767 Fifth Avenue — where Thomas H. Lee Capital, LLC is located on the sixth floor — at around 11.10am on Thursday, the sources told the New York Post.
The 78-year-old businessman was found dead at the scene.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the official cause of death.
“The family is extremely saddened by Tom’s death. While the world knew him as one of the pioneers in the private equity business and a successful businessman, we knew him as a devoted husband, father, grandfather, sibling, friend and philanthropist who always put others’ needs before his own,” Lee family friend and spokesman Michael Sitrick said in a statement.
“Our hearts are broken. We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve.”
A front desk worker at Lee’s office building was told there was an “emergency,” on the sixth floor, but was unaware of Lee’s death.
“They don’t want anyone going to that space right now, not even the building staff,” the man said.
Lee is credited with being one of the first financiers to purchase companies with money borrowed against the business being bought — what is now called a leveraged buyout.
The Harvard graduate founded Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. in 1974, serving as the chairman and CEO of the company and its predecessors.
In 1992, the private equity pioneer bought Snapple and sold it two years later for $1.7 billion, making 32 times his money.
But not everything always went according to plan.
In 1999, Lee led a deal for what was renamed Vertis Communications, the fifth-largest North American printer. By 2006, when many peers had expanded to offer other services, such as marketing, it dropped to ninth since it did not have the money to do the same. Vertis filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
Lee and his longtime partners split in 2005 with Thomas H. Lee Partners being run by Scott Sperling, and Lee left to form Lee Equity Partners in 2006, where he served as chairman until his death Thursday.
At the time of his death, Lee’s net worth was estimated to be $2 billion, according to Forbes.
Lee was a known philanthropist, particularly for the arts and education. He sat as a trustee for several Big Apple art organisations, including the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
“I’ve been lucky to make some money. I’m more than happy to give some of it back,” Lee said in 1996 after donating $22 million to his alma mater Harvard University, one of the school’s largest gifts ever from a living alumnus.
For his lifetime of philanthropy, he received the UJA-Federation’s award — named after Jack Nash, a financier who helped create the modern hedge fund business — in 2014.
Lee leaves behind his wife of 27 years, Ann Tennenbaum. He is survived by his children Jesse, Zach, Nathan, Robbie, and Rosalie, as well as two grandchildren.
A woman who answered the phone at Lee Equity Partners declined to comment.
This article originally appeared in the New York Post and was reproduced with permission
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