Jimmy Lee: Tribute to a titan

Known as a mentor, friend and master relationship-builder to many within North America’s corporate, private equity and banking communities, JP Morgan Chase’s vice-chairman James ‘Jimmy’ Lee had a view into the art of the deal that singled him out from many of his peers. His untimely death at 62 led to tributes from across the business spectrum. Private Equity International rounds up a selection of tributes from within the corporate, finance and private equity industry.

JPMorgan chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon at a memorial mass for Lee at New York’s St Patrick’s Cathedral: “Your DNA is embedded in JPMorgan Chase. You had unbridled enthusiasm and optimism that you poured onto us. I loved that you unconditionally cherished people, from titans of industry to underprivileged kids. Most of all, I loved how you loved your family.”

Jim Coulter, co-founder of TPG: “Across the history of the buyout business there have been many years, many deals and many cycles but there has been one constant: Jimmy. In buyouts, no one has to ask who you are talking about when you mention Jimmy.” 

Steve Pagliuca, Bain Capital: “He is remembered as a force of nature on Wall Street, where no deal was ever too complicated or large to make happen. We will remember him fondly.”

Steve Klinsky, CEO of New Mountain Capital: “Jimmy was the consummate relationship banker and a real gentleman.”

Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs & Co. president and chief operating officer: “Jimmy was a terrific friend, a fierce competitor and a very proud father.”

Dan Akerson, Carlyle Group LP vice-chairman and former General Motors CEO: “He had the contacts and the relationships. He would shake a tree and it was like money would come out of it.”

Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone Group co-founder and CEO: “He was unfailingly attentive and gifted at developing new solutions. He was also a great leader and developer of people.”

Daniel Loeb, founder of Third Point: “He wasn’t driven by money or deals, but by his passion for people. When I told Jimmy I planned to send a Japanese CEO a letter announcing we were becoming active in its stock, he advised me to deliver it in person, which I did. When that act earned us praise in Japan for showing special sensitivity to the country’s cultural customs, I repaid him by making him a T-shirt that said: ‘I advised Dan Loeb on his investment in Sony and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.’”

Henry Kravis, KKR & Co co-founder and co-CEO: “He built lasting relationships unlike almost any banker I have ever known and he will be truly missed.”

Josh Harris, Apollo Global Management co-founder: “Before anyone knew who we were, he got the bank willing to lend to us. He had a very good insight into the personal side of doing deals, which in many, many situations helped us get over the finish line.”

David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group: “I am deeply saddened by Jimmy’s death. Jimmy was a leader in every sense of the word, who helped invent the modern leveraged finance market. He was my friend and I will miss him greatly.”

Jack Welch, Lee’s mentor, former CEO of General Electric: “He had the highest integrity you could imagine. I worked out in the gym with him on the weekends and he would be working as hard as you can imagine.”

Alexandra Lebenthal, CEO of Lebenthal Holdings: “Jimmy was a friend and mentor to me who was never too busy to take my call or help me grow the firm as I have rebuilt it. I would not be where I am today without his trust, support and friendship.”