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Billionaire Clinton friend dies of suicide, reports say

Bill and Hillary Clinton. (U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cristian L. Ricardo)
February 24, 2023

A billionaire investor who pioneered the concept of the leveraged buyout was found dead on Thursday after reportedly committing suicide.

Thomas H. Lee, whose net worth Forbes currently estimates to be $2 billion, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday in his offices on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, CNN reported, citing a law enforcement official. The medical examiner is still determining the official cause of death. 

The New York Post cited anonymous police sources to report that a female assistant found Lee dead in his office bathroom Thursday morning after he had not been heard from. His Smith & Wesson revolver was next to him, and he had a single bullet wound to his head.

Lee is credited with being an early adopter of the leveraged buyout, in which a company is purchased mostly using borrowed money and then is made to pay it back. Elon Musk’s recent Twitter acquisition was a form of leveraged buyout that saddled the company with a $13-billion debt. 

Lee was also reportedly a friend of former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. After Hillary’s defeat in the 2008 Democratic primary, the pair reportedly stayed at Lee’s home in East Hampton on Long Island.

An anonymous source told the Post that Lee had “one of the most admired houses in the Hamptons” and that the Clintons “would regularly stay there.” Lee was also pictured in 1999 riding next to Bill in a golf cart on Martha’s Vineyard. 

Lee is survived by his wife, Ann Tenenbaum, and five children, Forbes reported.

A statement from family friend and spokesperson Michael Sitrick described Lee 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,” the statement said.