Thomas H. Lee, a billionaire financier based in New York who served on Warner Music Group‘s board for nearly two decades, was found dead yesterday in Manhattan aged 78.
Lee stepped down as a board director at WMG in 2021 following 17 years of service, but subsequently continued his affiliation with the music company as Director Emeritus.
The entrepreneur and private equity pioneer had a long and significant history with Warner Music: In 2004, he led the investor group that purchased the company from Time Warner.
Lee established his own firm, Thomas H Lee Partners, in 1974.
The Financial Times reports that the company is “a boutique investment outfit that perfected the early art of leveraged buyouts and grew to become one of the industry’s largest firms by the mid-1990s after a string of successful deals highlighted by the takeover of beverage company Snapple”.
In a statement issued today (February 24), Robert Kyncl, CEO of Warner Music Group, said: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Tom Lee. Tom made valuable contributions to WMG’s trajectory for almost two decades. He was part of the original investor group that acquired WMG from Time Warner in 2004, and he served as a director of our company from 2004 until 2021, when he became Director Emeritus.
“Tom’s experience, wisdom, and enthusiastic support helped guide WMG through periods of major transformation, both within our company and in the music industry at large. Our condolences go out to his family and many friends.”
Lee’s family said in a statement: “The family is extremely saddened by Tom’s death. Our hearts are broken. We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve.”
The company Lee founded, Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL), said in a statement: “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.”
Lee was found dead yesterday (February 23) morning at the listed offices of Thomas H. Lee Capital LLC, 767 Fifth Avenue, New York.