Home Wealth Management Thomas Lee Is Remembered by Milken, Kraft as Wall Road Trailblazer

Thomas Lee Is Remembered by Milken, Kraft as Wall Road Trailblazer

Thomas Lee Is Remembered by Milken, Kraft as Wall Road Trailblazer


(Bloomberg) — Thomas H. Lee started his senior 12 months of Harvard organising a desk with an indication: “Meet Tom Lee.” 

That was his novel presence at registration day for extracurricular golf equipment like chess, Shakespeare and astrophysics. Lee, based on household lore, was on the lookout for a girlfriend (and, the story goes, discovered one). Inevitably, he additionally put himself on the market to collect fascinating and individuals — the sort who’d method such a sales space with optimistic curiosity — into his orbit. 

All of it got here to startling finish final week when he shot himself within the lavatory of his household workplace. Lee, as open as he was all through his life, didn’t depart a be aware.

Associates, household, colleagues and friends, together with Invoice and Hillary Clinton, Izzy Englander and Edgar Bronfman, gathered Monday for a service in Manhattan on the Lincoln Middle for the Performing Arts to pay tribute to the personal fairness pioneer. They, and others from afar, are left to marvel what would drive somebody who was rich, had a household and, by all accounts, at all times loved life, to finish it in such a surprising approach at age 78.

Learn extra: Thomas Lee’s Agency Thrust Into Highlight After Founder’s Dying

The tales pour out throughout interviews of greater than a dozen individuals in his universe. They inform of the methods Lee shared the fortune he constructed and made others really feel necessary in his eyes.

Massive Tipper

Lee usually mentioned he began life on third base, rising up in Boston within the Fifties with well-to-do dad and mom. He labored laborious, and appreciated others who did the identical. Among the many most recurring reminiscences of these near him: He wasn’t stingy along with his cash or his time. 

He nearly compulsively handed out ideas, even when circumstances fell far exterior typical rituals — to a neighbor’s garden crew for a yard he loved, or to the peanut peddler in Central Park, the place he’d stroll on a sunny afternoon.

Lee turned a well-regarded philanthropist, following within the footsteps of his dad and mom and others in Boston. He served on boards of the Whitney Museum of American Artwork, Lincoln Middle, NYU Langone Well being and Brandeis College. He developed into an avid artwork collector, proudly owning works by artists together with Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.

However flaunting his huge wealth for private acquire was by no means a lot his type.

“He was by no means a man who appeared that excited by cash for cash’s sake,” mentioned Peter Solomon, founding father of funding financial institution Solomon Companions. 

Final Connector

This stance partially displays how he maneuvered all through his profession; he favored the concepts, the educational, the individuals. It additionally reveals how his Boston roots made him completely different from his Wall Road counterparts. 

In his 30s, after beginning his personal firm, Lee purchased a Rolex watch. However he decided it was too showy for Boston, so he bought it to his greatest good friend, Lewis Henkind, who was dwelling in New York on the time. That sort of social intelligence, evident all through his life, led him to as soon as joke a number of years in the past that individuals come to him for “wealthy classes.”

Lee schmoozed with tailors and bartenders, his tennis professional and chef, and, in fact, these on Wall Road. Some had been richer with larger corporations, some a lot much less so. Both approach, the bond from being pioneers within the trade was robust. 

Lee embraced the position of host with gusto, whether or not in his Manhattan residence, showcasing his pal, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, or on the porch of his East Hampton house for the Milken Institute’s annual late-summer occasions. 

“He was the one which introduced the chairs out, he needed to verify everybody might hear,” mentioned Michael Milken, the billionaire junk-bond-king-turned-philanthropist. He’d additionally spend time at his tennis court docket beaming as he watched his son Jesse play in Milken’s Prostate Most cancers Basis match. 

No Reply

Milken, who knew Lee for some 40 years, and Henkind, who knew him for 63 years since assembly on a teen journey to Israel, have no reply for why Lee would take his life. That they had talked with him earlier this month, pissed off they’d be lacking one another of their travels. Lee went to Los Angeles for the Grammys weekend, whereas Milken headed to Palm Seashore and Miami for the Florida model of his dialogues. 

“I’m having a tough time understanding this,” Milken mentioned. “It’s laborious to reconcile. He was profitable at enterprise as a result of he was profitable at life.”

Bob Kraft, whose late spouse Myra was a childhood good friend of Lee’s, was equally as perplexed, given his upbeat demeanor. 

“I’ve acquired to inform you this: my full data of Tommy was at all times smiling or saying one thing good, or making an attempt to do one thing good, and bringing individuals collectively,” he mentioned. “I by no means heard him say a nasty phrase about anybody.”

That doesn’t imply he wasn’t dealing with the truth of getting older, of slowing down, of seeing his kids have kids. He went on diets all through his life, together with shedding roughly 30 kilos over the previous few years.

Trying Ahead

But he was at all times trying ahead: he had tee occasions set on his calendar for the approaching days. Just some weeks in the past, he met with an architect to go over the small print of a renovation in East Hampton. Kraft and others had noticed Lee on his lengthy walks round Palm Seashore.

Lee was additionally somebody who would type lifelong bonds with these near him. 

Nearly 10 years in the past, Lee Fairness companion Doug Schreiber had a stroke at age 39. Lee and the entire agency instantly rallied round Doug, his spouse Amy and their youngsters.

With their dad nonetheless in a hospital mattress after 10 months, Amy mentioned she was decided to arrange one thing enjoyable for Jordan and Jackson, ages 4 and seven, in New York. Lee summoned them to satisfy at his helicopter. He rode with the youngsters, exhibiting them the Statue of Liberty and the remainder of town from above.

Lee finally satisfied Amy, her dad and mom and the youngsters to take a trip he organized at his house on the Breakers in Palm Seashore. When it turned an annual spring break ritual, he hung out with them day by day within the cabana he’d reserved, which he made positive was crammed with toys, kid-friendly meals and cartoons taking part in on TV. He’d provide Amy a break, watching the youngsters himself.

As the youngsters acquired taller, their friendship with Lee grew. He insisted on giving Jackson his first driving classes — on a golf cart — and walked across the Breakers holding Jordan’s hand. She finally acquired a driving lesson, too.

Final 12 months, Jackson had turned 15, and Jordan 12. Lee determined the crew was prepared for a brand new journey.

“Tom mentioned: ‘Amy, the youngsters are going to be bored on the Breakers sitting by the pool,” Amy Schreiber mentioned. “Take them someplace new.”

To contact the writer of this story:

Amanda L Gordon in New York at [email protected]



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