"I'm very shocked by this," Ronald Richards tells PEOPLE. "Besides being upset about his divorce and its effect on his kids, he didn't show any outward signs of depression."
The marital troubles between Armstrong, 47, and his wife Taylor, 40, were documented on the first season of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, on which she stars. At the time of his death, Russell was in the middle of divorce proceedings and was being sued for more than $1.5 million for misusing funds and breach of contract by MyMedicalRecords.com.
"Russell was a guy who always had multiple business deals going at all times," Richards says. "He was a good networker. But as a couple, they lived way beyond their means."
Debts & Legal Problems"Each month was a challenge for him to cover their lifestyle," adds Richards. "Russell was in a lot of debt and he had legal problems. His credit cards were used up. He had serious financial problems. And that no doubt caused him a lot of stress."
And a source close to Taylor and Russell says the stress was catching up to him.
"He was depressed," the source says. "He had a lot going on these past few months. The split from Taylor was a long time coming but it still took a big toll on him. He had no money; he was failing in business. It all added up."
Richards, however, blames the reality show for escalating Armstrong's stress level.
"When his wife and him first started the show, I warned them that it would cause undue stress on their marriage," he tells PEOPLE. "Being thrust in the spotlight didn't do any favors for Russell and Taylor."
Bravo did not immediately respond to requests for specific comment, but did say in a statement: "All of us at Bravo are deeply saddened by this tragic news. Our sympathy and thoughts are with the Armstrong family at this difficult time."
Reporting by AILI NAHAS