American billionaire Thomas Lee found dead at 78

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A US billionaire financier who helped pioneer the debt-fueled takeover of companies known as leveraged buyouts has been found, his family says.

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

The New York Post reported that he died of injuries sustained in his Manhattan office.

The New York Police Department told the BBC that an unnamed 78-year-old man was found dead Thursday morning at 767 Fifth Avenue.

The address is where the offices of Thomas H Lee Capital LLC are listed.

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

The police spokesman did not confirm that the man died of a gunshot wound, indicating that the cause of death would be up to the coroner to determine.

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

When the EMS arrives [Emergency Medical Services] They responded and pronounced the male dead at the scene.”

A statement by family friend and spokesperson Michael Sitrick said, “While the world has known him as a pioneer in the private equity space and a successful businessman, we have known him as a devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, and philanthropist. He always puts others’ needs before his own.”

Besides pioneering leveraged buyouts, Mr. Lee was also known for taking over the beverage company Snapple in 1992 and selling it two years later to Quaker Oats for $1.7 billion — 32 times what he bought it for.

Mr. Lee has also been celebrated for his philanthropic work and has served as a trustee for notable New York City arts organizations such as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Museum of Modern Art.

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

“I was lucky to make some money,” he said at the time. “I’m very happy to bring some of that money back.”

He was survived by his wife, Anne Tenenbaum, and five children.

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