American billionaire financier Thomas Lee has died at the age of 78

image source, Good pictures

A US billionaire financier who helped pioneer debt-fueled corporate takeovers, known as leveraged buyouts, has died, his family says.

In a statement, the family of Thomas H Lee said they were “deeply saddened” by the 78-year-old’s death.

He died of a gunshot wound in his Manhattan office, the New York Post reported.

The NYPD told the BBC that an unnamed 78-year-old man was found dead at 767 Fifth Avenue on Thursday morning.

Thomas H Lee Capital LLC’s offices are at the address listed.

According to Forbes, Mr Lee was worth $2bn (£1.6bn) at the time of his death.

A police spokesman would not confirm that the man died of a gunshot wound, noting that the medical examiner would determine the cause of death.

In a statement to BBC News, police said they responded to a 911 call from inside an office on Fifth Avenue just after 11:00 a.m. (16:00 GMT) on Thursday.

“Upon arrival EMS [Emergency Medical Services] responded and pronounced the male dead at the scene,” they said.

Family friend and spokesman Michael Sitrick said in a statement: “While the world knew him as a successful entrepreneur and pioneer in private equity, we knew him as a devoted husband, father, grandfather, sibling, friend and philanthropist who always put the needs of others before his own.”

Mr Lee is best known for his acquisition of the drinks company Snapple in 1992, which he sold to Quaker Oats two years later for $1.7bn.

Mr. Lee was also celebrated for his philanthropy, and served as a trustee of major New York City arts organizations such as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1996, he donated $22m to his alma mater Harvard University, part of which was used to provide financial aid to students.

“I’m lucky to make some money. I’m more than happy to give some of it back,” he said at the time.

He is survived by his wife Ann Tenenbaum and their five children.

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