Jimmy Lee, one of the foremost investment bankers of his generation, has died suddenly, JPMorgan Chase said on Wednesday.
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan, said Mr Lee, 62, “was a master of his craft, but he was so much more — he was an incomparable force of nature”.
He died in hospital on Wednesday morning after being taken ill during exercise, one person familiar with the matter said.
For JPMorgan, Mr Lee was a powerful weapon as the bank sought to attract the business of companies looking to do deals. In recent years, he helped JPMorgan land prominent roles on some of the biggest technology deals, including the initial public offerings of Facebook, Twitter and Alibaba.
Mr Lee joined Chemical Bank in 1975, which merged with Chase Manhattan in 1996. Chase acquired JPMorgan in 2000.* He is known for playing an important role in the development of the private equity industry in the 1980s, particularly the creation of the syndicated loan market, and was close to the industry’s titans such as Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman and KKR’s Henry Kravis.
With his pinstripe suits and slicked back hair, Mr Lee was the quintessential Wall Street banker. But the business came before the image: for the Facebook roadshow, he donned a black sweat jacket to fit in with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who is known for wearing hoodies.
He was the first port of call for companies in a diverse range of sectors, such as advising United Airlines in its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines. He was in the middle of leading the sale of GE Capital’s businesses for General Electric.
“He was the consummate investment banker-dealmaker — and he was working on one of the most important and complex transactions of his life,” said Jes Staley, former head of JPMorgan’s investment bank, now at BlueMountain, the hedge fund.
Unusually for a dealmaker, his office was close to that of Mr Dimon on the executive floor of the bank’s Park Avenue headquarters. Although he had management roles in his careers, including head of investment banking, he latterly had the amorphous title of vice-chairman and focused on deals.
“Where corporations are making major strategic or transactional moves, whether it was the government IPO-ing General Motors or Facebook going public you’d find Jimmy,” said Mr Staley.
He added: “Perhaps no one over the last four decades has worn the JPMorgan Chase jersey quite the way Jimmy Lee has.”
He could be relentless when trying to close a deal, constantly emailing and calling people into the middle of the night. To elbow his way on to the Alibaba deal, he took frequent flights to Hong Kong to woo founder Jack Ma.
He saw the value of burnishing his own image — and that of colleagues — in the press. He also took advantage of JPMorgan’s balance sheet to land financing deals with private equity titans.
Gary Cohn, president of Goldman Sachs, said: “Jimmy was a terrific friend, a fierce competitor and a very proud father. He will be deeply missed.”
Mr Lee is survived by his wife Beth and three children, Lexi, Jamie and Izzy.
Additional reporting by Kara Scannell and Arash Massoudi
* This article has been amended from the original to correctly reflect that JPMorgan was acquired by Chase
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