PE pioneer Thomas H. Lee passes away

Lee leaves a legacy as one of the founders of the industry we know today as private equity.

Thomas H. Lee, founder of the eponymous private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners, which he left in 2006 and formed Lee Equity, died Thursday. He was 78.

Lee leaves a legacy as one of the founders of the industry we know today as private equity.

“The family is extremely saddened by Tom’s death,” said a statement by family friend and spokesperson, Michael Sitrick. “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. We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve.”

“We are profoundly saddened by the unexpected passing of our good friend and former partner, Thomas H. Lee. 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.” – THL Co-CEOs Scott Sperling and Todd Abbrecht.

Here is a statement from Lee Equity:

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our Founder and Chairman, Thomas H. Lee. He was a great partner and wonderful friend whose vision will continue to influence us for many years to come.

Tom was a pioneering investor who helped create the private equity and leveraged buyout industry as we know it. Before founding Lee Equity Partners in 2006, Tom built Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL), which raised the largest private equity fund in the world in 2001 under Tom’s leadership. Since 1974, Tom has been responsible for investing over $15 billion of capital in hundreds of transactions. Tom’s long and distinguished career was highlighted by the many companies, entrepreneurs and investors who were his partners and friends over almost half a century of investing.

Tom, a prominent philanthropist, was committed to numerous charitable and educational organizations including his alma mater, Harvard College. Tom was passionate about providing access to care and supported this goal through his commitment to NYU Langone Medical Center. Tom loved New York City and was devoted to many of its most important arts and civic organizations. He served as a trustee of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.

Tom’s determination, commitment and strategic vision will continue to inspire all of us at Lee Equity Partners. He was a leader, a friend, a partner, and our mentor. We know he will be proud as the firm continues on, with strength. We will work every day to meet the high standards he has set for us and the entire industry. On behalf of our employees, management teams and investment partners, we mourn his loss and extend our deepest sympathies to his family.

We ask that you please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of the Partners at Lee Equity.

This report will be updated throughout the day with comments from people who knew and worked with Thomas H. Lee.