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Billionaire Thomas H. Lee, a Private Equity Pioneer, Has Died at Age 78 Lee's family confirmed his passing in a statement.

By Emily Rella

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Thomas H. Lee speaks at a conference in California in 2007.

Billionaire investor and businessman Thomas H. Lee, known as the "father of leveraged buyouts," has died at the age of 78, his family confirmed.

"The family is extremely saddened by Tom's death," said Michael Sitrick, a Lee family friend and spokesperson, in a statement. "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."

Though the family did not confirm a cause of death, the New York Post reported that Lee was found following a 911 call shortly after 11 a.m. on Thursday due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Per Reuters, NYPD confirmed emergency medical services were dispatched to a building on Fifth Avenue (where Lee resides) following a 911 call around the same time, where a man was "pronounced dead at the scene."

Who Is Thomas H. Lee?

Lee graduated from Harvard College in 1965, receiving a BA in Economics before pursuing early career endeavors as a securities analyst at L.F. Rothschild & Company in New York and a Vice President in the technology lending group at the First National Bank of Boston.

Lee had a decorated history in private equity, founding Thomas H. Lee Partners in 1974, which focused on leveraged buyouts and company acquisitions. In 2006, Lee started private equity firm Lee Equity Partners, where he served as chairman. It's estimated that he helped with investments of over $15 billion over hundreds of transactions throughout his career.

The most notable deal of his career was the sale of beverage giant Snapple to rival Quaker Oats for $1.7 billion in 1994. He had originally purchased the company just two years prior for $135 million, turning a massive profit.

"Tom was an iconic figure in private equity," said Todd Abbrecht and Scott Sperling in a statement on behalf of the Thomas H. Lee Partners. "He helped pioneer an industry and mentored generations of young professionals who followed in his footsteps. More importantly, he was a generous and gracious individual who cared deeply about his friends, his family, and his community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ann, and their family."

Lee was also a trustee of several charitable organizations based in New York City, including the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, NYU Langone Medical Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

His net worth at the time of his passing was an estimated $2 billion.

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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