In a statement to PEOPLE, Jill Shields called Dennis the love her life.
“We are all heartbroken. Dennis was, and will always be, the love of my life. His spirit lives on in our children. Please respect our family’s privacy at this time,” she said.
Dennis and Jill Shields were married for 26 years before separating in 2016, when he began his on-off relationship with Real Housewives of New York City star Bethenny Frankel.
A New York Police Department spokesperson confirmed to PEOPLE that a 51-year-old man was pronounced dead on the scene at Shields’ Trump Tower address. The NYPD could not share the individual’s name yet.
“Preliminarily, we are investigating it as a possible overdose,” the spokesperson said.
The duo first met about 28 years ago when he dated (and later married) Jill, one of her high school friends. Though Frankel and Jill did not stay in touch (“We’ve spoken three times in 25 years,” she previously told PEOPLE), she and Shields shared other mutual pals and began dating several months after he separated from his wife.