A billionaire financier and investor was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his office in New York City on Thursday.
Thomas H. Lee was confirmed dead in a statement released by his family. He was 78.
Police responded to Lee’s office at 767 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan around 11:10 a.m. His firm, Thomas H. Lee Capital, LLC is located on the sixth floor of the building.
Lee, a Harvard graduate, had a net worth of roughly $2 billion at the time of his death, according to Forbes.
The financier struck gold in his career by acquiring midsized companies, restoring their worth, and then selling them for wild profits – and his technique and success at the time was described as the ‘envy of Wall Street.’
His leveraged-buyout deals were legendary in the 1990s – pioneering financial transactions which allowed his company, in some instances, to produce more than 30-fold gains in a matter of years.
Police found the billionaire’s body at the office. EMTs pronounced him dead at the scene. Lee’s official cause of death will be determined by the Chief Medical Examiner.
The family’s spokesperson Michael Sitrick released a statement about Lee’s death on Thursday: ‘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.
‘Our hearts are broken. We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve.’
Lee was the founder and chairman of Lee Equity and had served as chairman and CEO of Thomas H. Lee Partners, according to the Lee Equity website.
He founded his Boston-based firm in 1974, and is credited with being one of the early pioneers in private equity and specifically leveraged buyouts.
The businessman may be best known for the sale of Snapple for $1.7 billion in 1992. He acquired the firm for $135 million – then invested $28 million into it – before selling it on.
He boosted the company’s revenue from $95 million a year to $750 million.
In his career, Lee has invested more than $15billion in hundreds of transactions.
Lee resigned from Thomas H. Lee Partners in 2006, and later that year formed Lee Equity Partners – a private equity firm focused more on growth capital transactions than the leveraged buyouts favored by THL.
He served as chairman until his death.
Just last week, it was announced that former Willis Towers Watson CEO John Haley had been appointed as an Executive Partner in the firm’s Financial Technology and Services investment group, Business Wire reported.
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