Thomas Lee on Wednesday left Thomas H. Lee Partners, the private equity firm he founded 32 years ago, to re-enter the private equity field and separately pursue his hedge fund of funds business.

Mr Lee, 62, who helped turn the Boston-based firm into one of the world’s largest leveraged buy-out operations, said he intends at first to solicit clients from outside the US for his $1.4 bn Blue Star fund, which farms out money to other hedge funds.

In addition, Mr Lee said he plans to pursue “the full breadth of buy-out opportunities” in private equity, and will further discuss his plans in the next few months.

The move comes after a period of difficulty for Thomas H. Lee Partners, known for buy-outs in companies such as beverage maker Snapple.

The firm was a major investor in Refco, the trading firm that collapsed into bankruptcy last year after its founder was charged with securities fraud.

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