Vice Chairman of JPMorgan James “Jimmy” Lee died unexpectedly on Wednesday, the company’s chief executive announced in a statement. Lee was 62.
“It is with deep sorrow and a heavy heart that I inform you that our beloved friend and colleague, Jimmy Lee, unexpectedly passed away this morning,” JPMorgan Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said in a statement.
“Jimmy was a great friend, leader and mentor to me and so many others.”
Lee was running on the treadmill Wednesday morning when he began feeling short of breath, a person who requested not to be identified owing to the sensitivity of the matter said.
Lee’s death came as a shock for people and colleagues who had been working with him recently.
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg posted a testimonial about Lee on her Facebook page. Sandberg said that Lee “believed in” the company even before it became a stock holding, as reported by USA Today.
“Jimmy played a critical role in Facebook’s history. He believed in us long before many others did – when we were a small company with little revenue he told us and anyone else who would listen how much potential he thought Facebook had,” Sandberg said on her Facebook page.
Lee is also credited with being among the first bankers to fragment large corporate loans and sell them off to other banks, a strategy that, though not much implemented, helped propel the 1980s leveraged buyout boom.
Graduating from Williams College in 1975, Lee took up an entry level job at Chemical Bank – an employment that would fetch him $10,500 annually – where he worked under legendary banker William Harrison. Lee steered Chemical Bank’s M&A and strategized its buying-lending business in the 1980s under the guidance of his supervisor. He also ideated a method to distribute LBO debt among several banks to manage their risk.
According to Forbes, Lee earned the rank of Vice President following Chemical’s merger with Chase Bank in 1996. He continued serving in the capacity as the merged company became JPMorgan Chase following subsequent acquisitions.
Some of Lee’s other valuable contributions include playing a vital role in the merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines to form United Continental Holdings Inc.; News Corp’s takeover of Wall Street publisher Dow Jones; and the initial public offering of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
Lee’s clients acknowledged his unrelenting demeanor whose persistence to achieve better prices for customers set him apart from the rest. Dan Akerson, vice chairman of private equity firm Carlyle Group CG.N and the former CEO of GM, said that during the 2010 initial public offering for General Motors Co. Lee fought to ensure the shares were sold at a higher price than what was originally planned.
In an interview with Reuters, Akerson said that Lee “was street smart, savvy, never overplayed his hand, but he’d push it.”
Marc Andreessen, a venture capitalist, posted a tribute on Twitter, saying Lee was “a friend and mentor.”
“His legacy will live on in everyone he helped and inspired,” Andreessen said.
Lee is survived by his wife Beth and three children, Lexi, Jamie and Izzy.
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