Tycoon Who Gave Fortune to Charities Before Suicide Praised as 'Legend'

Robert Wilson wanted to get rid of his fortune before he died.

ByColleen Curry
December 26, 2013, 2:43 PM
PHOTO: Robert W. Wilson attends the The Nature Conservancy's Global Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York, June 20, 2012.
Robert W. Wilson attends the The Nature Conservancy's Global Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York, June 20, 2012.
Andrew Toth/Patrick McMullan

Dec. 26, 2013— -- A hedge fund tycoon who gave away his fortune before committing suicide this week was praised today as a "legend" who "had a passion to get things done in the world."

Robert Wilson, 87, jumped to his death off The San Remo apartment building, a prestigious New York City address on Central Park West.

In the years before his death, he pledged to give away his entire fortune - some $800 million.

"Robert W. Wilson was a Wall Street legend who became a prominent philanthropist," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Wilson donated $100 million to the organization and challenged others to donate more, Krupp said.

"Bob had a passion to get things done in the world. Widely read and blessed with a keen intellect, he had the ability to predict where the world was going, a talent that informed his investments and, in later years, his philanthropy," Krupp said.

Krupp said that Wilson built up his own portfolio on Wall Street before stepping up his philanthropic work, "with the aim of bestowing his fortune during his lifetime."

"Initially skeptical of the science of climate change, he quickly came to regard it as a critical challenge. He wanted carbon pollution cut in an efficient and sensible way, knowing that for a solution to be environmentally sustainable, it must also be economically sustainable."

Wilson also donated his money to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the World Monuments Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"Bob helped EDF grow with a pivotal $100 million challenge grant that inspired scores of others to increase their own giving. I am personally grateful to Bob for his leadership and support over many years."

The Wildlife Conservation Society called Wilson a "great philanthropist" who helped transform WCS from a New York-based nonprofit into a global one.

"He inspired us to grow our programs and their influence. His support created institutional momentum that will carry us well into the future. His investment in WCS resulted in protection of wild species and the preservation of wild places around the world -- resources of both global significance and importance for local people," the group said in a statement.

"Bob Wilson will be remembered as a great and transforming conservationist," the statement read.

Representatives from the Archdiocese, the WMF, and the Nature Conservancy did not immediately provide comment to ABC News.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events