Dennis Shields, a leading entrepreneur in the litigation funding industry and the romantic partner of “The Real Housewives of New York City” star Bethenny Frankel, was found dead Aug. 10 at 51, according to news reports.
Shields had been a leader in the litigation finance sector for more than two decades. He was the founder and CEO of LawCash, a Brooklyn-based provider primarily of settlement advances for private litigants that launched in 2000. Shields was also a founder and executive chairman of Esquire Bank, a Long Island-based financial institution that services law firms and lawyers, and launched YieldStreet Inc., an online lending and investment business.
Reports about Shields’ death said he was found unresponsive the night of Aug. 10 at his Trump Tower apartment in midtown Manhattan. While a medical examiner’s report has yet to be released, police sources reportedly said that Shields’ death is being treated as an overdose, possibly related to the painkiller OxyContin.
“This tragic and emotional loss is devastating to all of us who knew Dennis and loved him dearly,” said a statement from Tony Coelho, the recently elected vice chairman of the board of directors at Esquire Financial Holdings Inc., the parent company of Esquire Bank. “Dennis will be fondly remembered by all who worked with him, including the board of directors who have full confidence in the management team which has led and will continue to lead Esquire Bank.”
More recently, Shields had featured in the reality show “Real Housewives of New York” as an on-again, off-again boyfriend of Bethenny Frankel, a television personality and author whom he had dated since 2016. Frankel is also an entrepreneur in her own right, having launched and sold her Skinnygirl spirits brand for roughly $100 million in a 2011 deal that yielded roles for at least three Am Law 100 firms.
Shields’ LawCash business has been at the center of a series of critical New York Post reports this year on the cash advance business in New York. The newspaper also reported that LawCash had been the victim of a $100,000 fraud perpetrated by a Florida-based law firm. LawCash has also been involved in the National Football League’s concussion litigation.
LawCash president Harvey Hirschfeld, who has been with the company since its inception, is also the chairman of the American Legal Finance Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association. Hirschfeld and the ALFA did not immediately return requests for comment about Shields’ death.
Shields is survived by his estranged wife, Jill Schwartzberg Shields, and their four children.
“We are all heartbroken. Dennis was, and will always be, the love of my life,” Schwartzberg Shields said in a statement provided to the New York Post. “His spirit lives on in our children. Please respect our family’s privacy at this time.”
Shields was also close friends with film and television executive Brian Koppelman, co-creator of hit cable series “Billions,” who in a series of tweets acknowledged that Shields was the inspiration for several of his fictional characters.
A funeral for Shields on Long Island was held Monday.