Billionaire financier and investor Thomas H. Lee was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his New York City office on Thursday. He was 78. Lee was confirmed dead by his family in a statement released to the media. However, the official cause of his death hasn't been made public yet.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the official cause of death. According to sources, police responded to a 911 call at 767 Fifth Avenue around 11:10 am, where Thomas H. Lee Capital, LLC is situated on the sixth floor. He was found dead inside his cabin on the sixth floor.
Killed Himself in Broad Daylight
EMTs pronounced Lee dead at the scene. According to Forbes estimates, Lee, a Harvard alumnus, had a net worth of about $2 billion at the time of his passing. His family confirmed his death via a statement.
"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 spokesperson Michael Sitrick said in a statement.
"Our hearts are broken. We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve."
Although Lee's death was unknown to the front desk staff at his office building, they were informed that there was an "emergency" on the sixth level.
"They don't want anyone going to that space right now, not even the building staff," the man said.
Lee is credited as being among the first financiers to invest in businesses by borrowing funds against the business being bought, a practice that is today known as a leveraged buyout.
In addition to founding Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P., the Harvard grad also served as chairman and CEO of its predecessors. The founder of private equity also acquired Snapple in 1992 and sold it for $1.7 billion two years later, making 32 times his initial investment.
However, not everything always went according to plan. After leaving Thomas H. Lee Partners in 2006, Lee founded Lee Equity Partners, a private equity company that focuses more on growth capital deals than the leveraged buyouts THL was known for. He held that position till his death.
Just last week, it was confirmed that John Haley, the former CEO of Willis Towers Watson, has been appointed as an Executive Partner in the company's Financial Technology and Services investment business.
Lee has been married twice, the first time in 1968 to Barbara Fish Lee. They had two children, Zach and Robbie before they got divorced in 1995.
In 1997, he married Ann Tenenbaum, a Savannah, Georgia, resident, and the two of them had three kids together: Jesse, Nathan, and Rosalie. He has two grandchildren as well.
Bill and Hillary Clinton were close friends of Lee, and it is said that in June 2008, after Hillary's failed presidential bid, the couple stayed at his East Hampton house.
Over the past 46 years, Lee invested more than $15 billion in hundreds of deals, including the purchase and subsequent sales of well-known brands like Warner Music and Snapple Beverages.
The Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, Brandeis University, Harvard University, and the Museum of Jewish History were among the organizations he sat on the boards of as a trustee and philanthropist.