Lee denies discord

Steve Rosenbush

Buyout legend Thomas H. Lee went into overdrive today after seeing press reports that his impending departure from the firm he founded in 1974 was anything but amicable. As Business Week Online reported back on October 21, Lee’s firm has told investors for its next buyout fund that the founder was setting up his own shop and wouldn’t be on board.

In an email today to his staff, Lee said “our parting is very friendly, and, I am sure, will portend years of joint and co-operative investment activities.” Thomas H. Lee Partners, based in Boston, plans to continue looking for bigger opportunities like its recent deal to buy Dunkin' Donuts parent Dunkin' Brands, while Lee himself may do smaller deals or partner with his old firm. Lee, who works out of an office in New York, has also been setting up a fund to invest in hedge funds, says a person close to the firm. “This is completely friendly and amicable,” the person says.

Despite losing almost $300 million on its $507 million investment in bankrupt future brokerage Refco, Lee’s old firm isn’t having much trouble raising money for its next fund which is likely to top $7.5 billion. The current Lee fund has enough winners like Warner Music and Transwestern Publishing to more than offset Refco and finish with an annualized return of over 30%.

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