Dennis and Jill Shields were married for 26 years before separating in 2016

By Julie Jordan and Jodi Guglielmi
August 10, 2018 02:57 PM
Alessio Botticelli/GC Images

Late banker Dennis Shields’ wife has spoken out about his tragic death.

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.

Dennis was found dead in his Trump Tower apartment on Friday, according to the New York Post and TMZ. He was 51.

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.

Dennis Shields and Bethenny Frankel
Alessio Botticelli/GC

Frankel and Shields began dating in 2016 — three years after the Skinnygirl founder filed for divorce from ex-husband Jason Hoppy, with whom she shares 8-year-old daughter Bryn.

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.