How rich is Thomas H. Lee?
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Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL), the company he founded in 1974, is among the earliest and biggest private equity firms worldwide. In 1974, Lee founded a fresh investment firm to concentrate on getting businesses through leveraged buyout transactions. From the mid-1980s, Thomas H. Lee Partners was firmly established among the top grade of a new type of private equity investors, while taking a more favorable strategy than the so called corporate raiders of the age (e.g., Nelson Peltz, Ronald Perelman, Carl Icahn). Lee allegedly put in less than $3 million and when the business was sold two years later for $210 million walked away with over $180 million in gains. The combined firm was an early forerunner to what’s now Signet Group, among Europe’s biggest jewelry retail chains. In 1992, THL’s acquisition of Snapple Beverages indicated the resurrection of the leveraged buyout after several inactive years in the aftermath of the RJR Nabisco takeover, the autumn of Michael Milken, as well as the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After ceding public interest to his opponents, most notably Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the Snapple Beverages trade catapulted Lee to visibility. Just eight months after purchasing the business, Lee chose Snapple Beverages public as well as in 1994, just two years following the initial acquisition, Lee sold the business to Quaker Oats for $1.7 billion. Lee was estimated to have made $900 million for himself and his investors in the deal. Quaker Oats would afterwards sell the business, which performed badly under new direction, three years after for just $300 million.