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Strange Twist: Billionaire Investor Thomas Lee Lists Only $25M in Assets in His Estate 

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By:  Marty Raminoff

Billionaire financier and investor Thomas H. Lee, who was tragically found dead by suicide last month in his Midtown East office, listed an unexpectedly modest $25 million worth of assets in his estate.  Mr. Lee, 78, was found on Feb. 24th with a mortal self-inflicted gun wound at his office on Fifth Avenue, shocking his loving family, friends and colleagues.   Mr. Lee had been nicknamed the “envy of Wall Street” in the 1980s and 90’s, and was a generous philanthropist.

As reported by the NY Post, court documents unveiled just $25 million worth of assets in his will, though his estimated net worth was recently pinned at roughly $2 billion by Forbes. In his will, penned in 2015, he named his wife of almost 30 years, Ann Tenenbaum, as executor of his estate.  He left $10 million each to two of his sons Stephen Lee, 52, and Robert S. Lee, 42.  These sons are due nothing else, he wrote in the document, “not for any lack of love or affection for each of them but because they are otherwise well provided for.”  His other three children are listed as the beneficiaries of trusts, the details of which are not specified in the court documents, but which are expected to be worth a great deal more.

Mrs. Tenenbaum will inherit her late husband’ residences, which include a Sutton Place apartment and an impressive East Hampton estate, in addition to “tangible” personal property including cars, furniture, artwork, silver, pictures and books.  Per the Post, the will also stipulates that his wife’s three siblings will also inherit $5 million each.  Sources said the assets listed in the documents recently filed Manhattan Surrogate Court likely don’t reflect the full value of Mr. Lee’s holdings.  “This $25 million is stuff he owned in the name of Thomas H. Lee,” said a trusts and estates lawyer who isn’t connected to the dealings.  A lawyer for Lee’s estate didn’t respond to the Post’s request for comment.

No suicide note has been found from Mr. Lee. A family friend had commented last month that the family was in a “somber state” following the shocking news.   “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,” Lee’s family friend and spokesman Michael Sitrick had said, adding that the family was “extremely saddened” by his passing. Mr. Lee was publicly mourned at an extensive funeral at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on Feb. 27.

Mr. Lee was famed as a private equity financier who pioneered the use of leveraged buyouts which changed the landscape of corporate America.  He was also a married father of five and a grandfather to two, as well as an esteemed philanthropist.

“I’ve been lucky to make some money. I’m more than happy to give some of it back,” Mr. Lee had said at the time.  Lee, who was born to a Jewish family, also served as a trustee on the board of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Brandeis University, Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, the Intrepid Museum Foundation, NYU Medical Center, and Rockefeller University.

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