Thomas H. Lee, founder of Thomas H. Lee Partners, died Thursday at age 78 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York.
Mr. Lee, a billionaire whose best-known transaction was notching a 334% return on equity from his 1992 purchase of Snapple Beverage, died in his office, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.
Mr. Lee's family's spokesman Michael Sitrick said in a statement: "The family is extremely saddened by Tom's death. 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."
Todd Abbrecht and Scott Sperling, co-CEOs at Thomas H. Lee Partners, said in a joint statement: "We are profoundly saddened by the unexpected passing of our good friend and former partner, Thomas H. Lee."
Messrs Abbrecht and Sperling added: "Tom was an iconic figure in private equity. 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."
"He was a good and caring human being," said Henry Kravis, co-founder and co-executive chairman of KKR in an email.
David Fann, senior managing director and vice chairman of private equity firm Apogem Capital, said "Not only was Tom a great investor, but he also had an incredible wit, and was a terrific golfer."
"He was always generous with advice, perspective and wisdom," said Mr. Fann, who before joining Apogem in September was vice chairman and partner of alternative investment consultant Aksia.
A biography on the website of Lee Equity Partners noted that Mr. Lee formed the firm in 2006 and previously served as chairman and CEO of Thomas H. Lee Partners, which he founded in 1974.
"Over the past 46 years, Mr. Lee has been responsible for investing over $15 billion of capital in hundreds of transactions," the biography on the website noted.
Lee Equity has $3 billion in assets under management, according to its website.
Lee Equity could not be reached for further details.