Multimillionaire philanthropist Robert W. Wilson, 86, took his own life Monday by throwing himself from his luxury Upper West Side high-rise apartment, just a few months after suffering a debilitating stroke, sources said.
The former Wall Street hedge fund titan — who donated hundreds of millions to charity — left a note before leaping at about 11 a.m. from the 16th floor of the famed San Remo, which overlooks Central Park West, cops said.
“He was 86 and suffered a stroke a few months ago,” said Wilson’s friend, Stephen Viscusi.
“He always said he didn’t want to suffer, and when the time came, he would be ready.”
A Detroit native, Wilson rose from humble beginnings to becoming nearly a billionaire, after starting his firm, Wilson Associates, with just $15,000.
He would eventually build a Wall Street fortune, which was estimated by Business Week in 2000 to be worth about $800 million.
His goal was to give away most of his wealth before he died. But with his finances spread around to different money managers, the bottom line seemed to keep growing.
“His plan was to give all his money away,” Viscusi said. “He told me recently, ‘I only have about $100 million to go.’
Wilson donated $100 million each to the World Monuments Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“He was the most committed person I have ever known,” said Bonnie Burnham, president of World Monuments Fund.
“More than his financial contributions, he brought an astute mind and sharp wit to the organization. He will be missed greatly and long remembered as a visionary donor.”
The World Monuments Fund works to preserve architectural and cultural heritage sites around the world.
One of Wilson’s favorite initiatives was “saving” Catholic private schools, although he was an atheist.
“I realized that Catholic schools were closing all over the country, and Bill Gates probably didn’t have enough money to save them,” he told Bloomberg News in 2010.
Wilson believed that private schools offered a better educations than “the union-controlled inner-city schools.”
He gave millions to the Archdiocese of New York over the years and became a good friend of Edward Cardinal Egan.
Police said the window to Wilson’s apartment was open and the death was not deemed suspicious.
Wilson was married to his only wife, Marilyn, for about 35 years before they divorced.
He leaves behind an brother, William, 88, who lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He has no children.