William Polk Carey, founder of investment management firm W.P. Carey & Co., died on Jan. 2 at age 81, the company announced.

Carey, a direct descendant of President James K. Polk, was well known in the financial advisor community. “Bill was just a great, great guy, and all who invested with him were exceedingly happy,” said Mark Dick, managing director and investment officer at Wells Fargo Advisors in Rochester, N.Y.  Carey was “someone you’d feel really comfortable with handling your clients’ money,” he said, adding that his own clients and family members also invested with Carey.

Carey founded his firm in 1973, the company said in a statement. The company is known for providing financing to businesses, and is especially known for its pioneering use of sale-leaseback financing in commercial real estate. In addition, the firm has always focused on providing income-oriented products for investors, and is well known for its CPA series of non-traded REITs. W.P. Carey owns nearly 1,000 commercial and industrial properties globally, totaling roughly 120 million square feet.

A well-known philanthropist who founded the W.P. Carey Foundation with a mission to support educational institutions and programs with a focus on business and economics, Carey was also known to be generous on a personal level. More than two decades after a Colorado-based sugar manufacturing company owned by Carey’s family went bankrupt, depriving (as is common in bankruptcies) the local beet farmers who supplied the company of payments and wages due them, Carey — who by then had the means — wrote personal checks for all the outstanding debts, according to a profile of his life posted on his firm’s web site.

“Bill Carey was more than our founder and chairman — he was the cultural leader of our company,” W.P. Carey CEO Trevor P. Bond said in a statement. “All of us at W.P. Carey & Co. are mourning his loss.”

Danielle Reed writes for Financial Planning.