February 23, 2023 | 6:42 p.m.
Billionaire financier and investor Thomas H. Lee was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Manhattan office on Thursday morning, law enforcement sources said.
Cops responded to a 911 call at 767 Fifth Avenue — where Thomas H. Lee Capital, LLC is located on the sixth floor — around 11:10 a.m., the sources said.
Paramedics pronounced the 78-year-old businessman dead at the scene.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the official cause of death.
“The family is extremely saddened by the passing of Tom. While the world knew him as one of the pioneers of private equity and a successful businessman, we knew him as a husband, father, grandfather , a brother, sister, friend and dedicated philanthropist who always put the needs of others before his own,” the Lee family said friend and spokesperson Michael Sitrick in a statement.
“Our hearts are broken. We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve.
Lee is credited with being one of the first financiers to buy businesses with borrowed money against the purchased business – what is now called a leveraged buyout.
In 1992, the private equity pioneer bought Snapple in 1992 and sold it two years later for $1.7 billion, making 32 times its money.
But things didn’t always go as planned.
In 1999, Lee led a deal for what was renamed Vertis Communications, North America’s fifth-largest printer. In 2006, when many peers expanded to offer other services, such as marketing, it fell to ninth because it didn’t have the money to do the same. Vertis filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
Lee and his longtime partners separated in 2005, with Thomas H. Lee Partners being led by Scott Sperling, and Lee leaving to form Lee Equity Partners.
A woman who answered the phone at Lee Equity Partners declined to comment Thursday afternoon.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free, confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can call the national suicide prevention hotline 24/7 at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
Additional reporting by Josh Kosman