Thomas Lee, US billionaire financier, dies by suicide in office

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American billionaire financier Thomas H. Lee, considered a pioneer of private equity investment and leveraged buyouts, died at the age of 78, his family said on Thursday.

The New York City office of the chief medical examiner said on Friday the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Lee was discovered dead on Thursday morning at his Fifth Avenue Manhattan office, headquarters of his investment firm, when police responded to an emergency-911 call at around 11:10 a.m. (1610 GMT).

“The family is extremely saddened by Tom’s death,” Lee’s family said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken. We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve.”

Lee was the founder and chairman of Lee Equity, which he formed in 2006, and previously served as chairman and CEO of Thomas H. Lee Partners, which he founded in 1974, according to a biographical statement released by his family.

Over the past 46 years, Lee was responsible for investing more than $15 billion of capital in hundreds of transactions, including the acquisition and subsequent sales of such brand names as Snapple Beverages and Warner Music.

He was also known as a philanthropist and trustee who 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.

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