Robert Wilson Dies: Hedge Fund Founder an Apparent Suicide

Thursday, 26 Dec 2013 12:14 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Robert Wilson, a retired hedge fund founder known for his philanthropy, died in an apparent suicide Monday. Police believe he leaped to his death from his 16th floor residence at the San Remo apartment building on Manhattan’s Central Park West. He was 87.

Wilson's body was found in the building's courtyard. Police reportedly found his apartment locked, window open, and nothing suspicious that would suggest foul play.

Though it is unclear what might have triggered the suicide, the 87-year-old had suffered a stroke earlier in June, his accountant told Bloomberg News, the severity of which was not reported.

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Having retired in 1986, Wilson's Wall Street career spanned more than five decade, during which time he worked primarily as a securities analyst. By 2000, his net worth was approximated at $800 million, Bloomberg News reported.

Over the years, Wilson donated much of his fortune to various nonprofits, particularly conservation groups such as a $100 million gift to the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund as well as similar gifts to the Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"He became the challenge king of the philanthropic world," Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund – another recipient of Wilson's generosity – told Bloomberg News.

Another major benefactor was the Archdiocese of New York, which received millions over the years from Wilson for its Parochial school system, despite the fact that he was an atheist. Wilson, who reportedly had a good relationship with Cardinal Edward Egan, felt Catholic schools provided a superior education to "the union-controlled inner-city schools" of public education, the Canada Journal reported.

Wilson began his career as a trainee for First Boston, before leaving the firm and joining the Army to fight in Korea. When he returned home in 1953, the Detroit-born analyst worked for several firms including General American Investors, where he served as vice president, and later A.G. Becker.

During his life, Wilson also served as chairman of the New York City Opera and on the boards of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Opera, Bloomberg News reported.

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He leaves behind his 88-year-old brother William and ex-wife Marilyn, whom he had been married to for about 35 years. They had no children.

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