Thomas H. Lee, pioneer of leveraged buyouts, has passed away at the age of 78

New York (CNN) Thomas H. Lee, a private equity financier who pioneered the use of leveraged buyouts that helped reshape corporate America, has passed away, according to a post from his former company that still bears his name .

“We are deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of our good friend and former partner, Thomas H. Lee,” THL said in a statement. “Tom was an iconic figure in private equity. He helped pioneer an industry and mentored generations of young professionals who followed in his footsteps.”

A senior law enforcement official told CNN a preliminary analysis suggests Lee, 78, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while in his Fifth Avenue office on Thursday. However, officials are waiting for the medical examiner to determine the cause of death.

Lee was one of the leaders in the use of leveraged buyouts, or LBOs. In LBOs, a buyer borrows money to make a purchase, usually using the acquired company’s future earnings to pay off the loan. The goal is often to sell the company for a higher price in a relatively short period of time, either to another buyer or by taking it public.

One of Lee’s most famous and lucrative leveraged buyouts was his purchase of Snapple for $135 million in 1992. Lee sold it to a competitor, Quaker Oats, in 1994 for $1.7 billion. Quaker Oats sold Snapple shortly after for just $300 million, a huge loss.

Unlike many private equity firms, Lee’s firm did not have a reputation for implementing huge cost cuts, such as extensive layoffs, to increase the value of the acquired company and increase its value before a sale. He was able to increase the value of Snapple before his sale to Quaker Oats, primarily by growing the company and its sales, reportedly increasing sales from $95 million a year to $750 million.

“He’s that rare thing on Wall Street — a really nice guy,” Forbes said in a 1997 profile of him.

Lee left THL in 2006 and started another private equity firm, Lee Equity Partners. His bio on the company’s site said he has invested $15 billion in capital in hundreds of transactions over the past 46 years.

Lee joined the company as an analyst in the institutional research division of LF Rothschild & Company. He then moved to First National Bank of Boston, where he rose to vice president and led the bank’s high-tech lending group. He founded Thomas H. Lee Partners in 1974.

Forbes estimated his net worth at $2 billion at the time of his death.

He has also been active in philanthropy. According to his firm’s biography, he has currently or in the past served as a trustee of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, NYU Langone Medical Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among other civic and charitable organizations.

“The family is deeply saddened by Tom’s death,” family friend and spokesperson Michael Sitrick said in a statement. While the world knew him as one of the pioneers of the private equity business and a successful businessman, we knew him as a devoted husband, father, grandfather, sibling, friend and philanthropist who always put the needs of others before his own. said. Our hearts are broken.”

Editor’s Note: If you are in the US and you or a loved one are considering suicide, call the National suicide and crisis lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to connect with a trained counselor. Outside the US, a worldwide list of resources and international hotlines is provided by the International Association for Suicide Preventionand you can turn to Friends worldwide.






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