A billionaire and noted friend of former President Bill Clinton has died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, new reports claim.
Just after 11 a.m. on Thursday, emergency responders were called to the office of Lee Equity Partners on 5th Avenue in New York City. There, they found company founder and chairman Thomas H. Lee lying on his side in his office's bathroom. He had a gunshot wound to his head and a handgun by his side. Unfortunately, medical teams could not revive him, and Lee was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 78.
Police claimed that the pistol found near the body was registered to Lee and that the license for the gun had been located in his office. A statement from Lee's family confirmed his death but did not mention the cause.
"The family is extremely saddened by Tom’s death," the statement read. "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," the statement said in closing. "We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve."
Lee is perhaps best known for developing a business strategy known as the "leveraged buyout." In a leveraged buyout, a company borrows against the assets of a company in order to buy that same company.
Lee also famously flipped the beverage company Snapple, turning it public and then selling it to Quaker Oats for $1.7 billion in 1994, just two years after he bought it. At his death, Lee was worth an estimated $2 billion.
"I’ve been lucky to make some money," Lee said. "I’m more than happy to give some of it back." And he did, donating a whopping $22 million to his alma mater, Harvard University, in 1996. It still marks one of the largest donations the university has ever received from a living alumnus. Lee also served on the boards of many organizations, including the Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, Brandeis University, Harvard University, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Reuters reported.
Like many financiers and Harvard alums, Lee was well connected. He even shared a longtime friendship with former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. After Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, she and her husband spent some time at Lee's extraordinary mansion in the Hamptons to keep out of public view.
Lee's death also comes on the heels of the apparent suicide of fellow Clinton associate Mark Middleton, who reportedly took his own life at an Arkansas ranch last May. Vince Foster, who served as Clinton's White House deputy counsel, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in July 1993, just six months after Clinton's inauguration.
Both Foster and Middleton reportedly suffered from depression before their untimely deaths. Currently, there are no reports that Lee battled depression or any other mental or physical affliction. He is survived by Ann Tennenbaum, his wife of 27 years; five children; and two grandchildren.
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