Fraser Sullivan Founder Tighe Sullivan Dies in Helicopter Crash

Tighe Sullivan
Tighe Sullivan, founder, managing partner and chief operating officer of WCAS Fraser Sullivan Investment Management LLC, has died in a helicopter crash. Photographer: Felicia Rubinstein/Fraser Sullivan Investment Management via Bloomberg

Tighe Sullivan, co-founder of WCAS Fraser Sullivan Investment Management LLC, was killed in a helicopter crash in Pennsylvania while returning from a golf outing. He was 51.

Sullivan, of Darien, Connecticut, was among three passengers in a helicopter that went down in a wooded area in Coolbaugh Township about 8 p.m. on Oct. 9, the Monroe County coroner’s office said yesterday in a statement. The pilot, William Ellsworth, 52, of Califon, New Jersey, also died, while passenger Stephen Barral of Bernardsville, New Jersey, a fraternity brother of Sullivan’s, survived.

Sullivan started the leveraged-loan firm with John Fraser in 2005 after leaving Deutsche Bank AG, where he was a managing director in high-yield sales. He is survived by his wife, Callie, and their children, Jessie, 18, Lila, 17, and Tiger, 15, said Richard Lombard, his father-in-law.

“He was just a wonderful guy,” Lombard said in a telephone interview. “Full of spirit. An action person.”

Sullivan, an alumnus of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, enjoyed wakeboarding and skiing and coached his son’s hockey teams, Lombard said. A service will be held at the United Church of Rowayton in Norwalk, Connecticut, at 1 p.m. on Oct. 14, he said.

3i Group Plc, the U.K’s oldest private-equity firm, said in August that it was starting a U.S. unit with New York-based WCAS Fraser Sullivan, which managed about $2.5 billion at the time. Sullivan was slated to be co-head of the U.S. business when the transaction was completed, reporting to Jeremy Ghose, chief executive officer of 3i Debt Management.

Deutsche Bank

“We are all shocked and saddened by this tragic loss,” Ghose said in a statement. “I know how excited Tighe was to be part of 3i and, together with John Fraser and his colleagues, we will continue to build on the foundations he laid and to keep his memory in our hearts.”

At Deutsche Bank, Sullivan helped market $185 billion of junk bonds and bridge loans, according to a biography on the WCAS Fraser Sullivan website. Before joining Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank in 2001, he worked at ING Barings LLC and First Union Securities Inc., according to records maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Sullivan covered a lot of big accounts at Deutsche Bank, said Michael Herzig, who worked with him there. He had a “big, energetic, enthusiastic personality,” said Herzig, 44, now a managing director at THL Credit Senior Loan Strategies, a unit of private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners LP.

‘People Person’

That popularity on Wall Street helped Sullivan recruit talented employees when he ventured out on his own, Fraser, the co-founder, said in a telephone interview. The two met in 1983 when both were working for Chase Manhattan Bank and had talked about starting a company together since around 2000, he said.

“Tighe’s a people person,” Fraser said. “He was great at developing relationships with people that ultimately proved valuable.”

When the helicopter went down, Sullivan was returning from a golf trip to Pine Valley, New Jersey, Lombard said. They had dropped off a passenger in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and were returning to the New York area when the pilot diverted toward a local airport to escape bad weather, Chief Harry Lewis of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department said in a statement. They crashed about a mile from Mt. Pocono Airport, he said.

Police found the wreckage in a heavily wooded area near Interstate 380 at 2:29 a.m., about 6 1/2 hours after it went down, according to the coroner. After an initial search failed, Barral’s mobile phone signal eventually led police to the crash site, WNEP-TV of Moosic, Pennsylvania, reported on its website.

Fraternity Brothers

Sullivan and Ellsworth were dead when police arrived, the coroner said. Barral, who was riding in the helicopter’s back seat, was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, according to the coroner.

Ellsworth flew helicopters part-time. He was also a first officer for American Airlines Inc., based at New York’s LaGuardia airport, according to Sam Mayer, a spokesman for the pilots union. He been an American pilot for 19 years, the airline said in an e-mailed statement.

Sullivan and Barral were both members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Colgate, Charlie Herzog, a fraternity brother, said in a telephone interview. Barral graduated in 1984 and worked on Wall Street, Herzog said.

‘Star Personality’

Sullivan was born on March 16, 1961, in Montclair, New Jersey, his wife said. His mother, Cheryl, made furnishings, such as curtains, and his father, John, was manager of operations for retailer B. Altman & Co., she said. Both are deceased.

After two years at Montclair State College, Sullivan transferred to Colgate, his father-in-law said. He borrowed from an acquaintance and sold newspapers to pay tuition and became a “star personality,” he said. Sullivan joined the economics and politics clubs and took a turn on the student-run radio station, according to Colgate’s website.

“He was a total Horatio Alger story,” Lombard said.

Three years after he graduated, Sullivan met Callie while he was in the training program at Chase and she was working as an art saleswoman, she said. A mutual friend set them up on a blind date at the Dew Drop Inn, a bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, on Dec. 5, 1986, she said.

Lake George

“My friend said that he had red hair and was kind of obnoxious and liked to drink a lot of beer,” Callie said. “I said, ‘Why would I want to go out with somebody like that?’ She said, ‘Because you like a challenge.’

“We fell in love at first sight, that was it,” said Callie, a former member of the Darien Board of Selectmen.

The couple were married in 1989, and in 2000 they bought a house on Lake George in upstate New York, which they renovated. He used one of their boats for wakeboarding there, she said.

“He would spend hours dragging people around the lake,” Callie said. “He was there every weekend in the summer.”

Sullivan served on Colgate’s alumni council, endowed a scholarship for his fraternity and received a service award from the school in 2008, according to the college’s website. His daughter Jessie is now a freshman there, Lombard said.

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