Robert W. Wilson, a hedge fund manager and decades-long patron of the ACLU, committed suicide Monday by throwing himself from his luxury Central Park West high-rise apartment in New York into the courtyard.
Wilson, 87, had earned an estimated $800 million as a noted short seller by 2000, the New York Post reported. Estimates of his gifts to groups including the World Monuments Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society range between $400 million and $500 million. He spent millions fighting Proposition 8 in California — the state’s gay marriage ban — and backed a measure which would expand state funding and oversight for treatment and rehab programs for nonviolent drug offenders and parolees while reducing criminal penalties and limiting courts’ authority to lock up offenders who violate probation or parole.
He also devoted time and money to the cause of criminal justice reform. He established a matching donation in 2010 for anyone leaving money to the ACLU in their will of up to $10,000 each.
“Bob was passionate about criminal justice reform, and the need to provide justice to those who are imprisoned,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in a statement Christmas morning. “He was a member of the ACLU for over four decades.”
Wilson suffered a stroke about a month ago, the Gothamist reported. A suicide note was found in his apartment on the 16th floor of The San Remo on Central Park West. He was unmarried and had no children.
In a 2007 interview with Upstart Business Journal, Wilson said his goal was to give away 70 percent of his net worth before he died.
“A lot of rich Wall Streeters really can’t be bothered with thinking about giving it away when there are so many opportunities to make it,” he told Insider. “But I’m 80 years old, and I haven’t been active in the market for 20 years. I don’t have that distraction of making money anymore. I have other people who are making money for me, but I myself am not making it. So I can concentrate on this.”