Jacob Rothschild, prominent investment banker, dies at 87

Jacob Rothschild, the banker and philanthropist who left his influential family bank to build his own financial empire in the City of London, has died at the age of 87. His family confirmed his death in a statement to the Press Association. No cause was given.

Jacob Rothschild was a British peer and investment banker who built his own own financial empire in the City of London

‘Our father Jacob was a towering presence in many peoples’ lives – a superbly accomplished financier, a champion of the arts and culture, a devoted public servant,’ the Rothschild family said in the statement, noting several of his philanthropic endeavors.

A seventh-generation heir of the famed banking dynasty, Rothschild left N.M. Rothschild & Sons Ltd. in 1980 to focus on Rothschild Investment Trust after resigning from the family firm over a dispute about its direction.

The offshoot business, known as RIT Capital Partners Plc, is today one of the UK’s largest investment trusts with £3.5 billion ($4.4 billion) in net assets.

Jacob Rothschild was also one of the UK’s leading philanthropists and was the chairman of the boards of the National Gallery and the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

A noted art collector, he restored Spencer House in London and masterminded the five-year restoration of Waddesdon Manor, the 19th century country house in Buckinghamshire built by one of his many wealthy ancestors, from 1990 to 1995.

He was chairman of Yad Hanadiv, the family foundation, which gave the Knesset and the Supreme Court buildings to the nation.

Jacob Rothschild was awarded the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. The order is given for service in the field of the arts, learning, literature and science, and are limited in number to 24 in the United Kingdom.

Rothschild was among the rare people to have been painted by both Lucian Freud and David Hockney.

‘He made the very most of the privilege he was born into, contributing hugely to the cultural and commercial life of Britain,’ Former UK chancellor George Osborne said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

‘His contributions to the Waddesdon gallery make it one the jewels of the British Museum. Smart, curious, full of new projects and with a dry humour – he will be missed.’

Jacob Rothschild: Early Life

Nathaniel Charles Jacob Rothschild was born in April, 1936, educated at Eton College and the University of Oxford. In 1961, he married the late Serena Mary Dunn, a granddaughter of the Canadian financier Sir James Dunn. She was a British thoroughbred racehorse owner and managed Waddesdon Stud at the manor of the same name that has become one of the National Trust’s most visited properties.

Jacob Rothschild was a descendant of the renowned family of financiers founded in Frankfurt by Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a rare-coin dealer born in 1744, who advised German aristocrats on their finances.

Mayer Amschel sent his sons to major European cities to do business with cash-strapped government, which laid the foundations of the banking dynasty.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild was the first to venture abroad when he arrived on English shores at the end of the 18th century.

Nathan founded his namesake bank in 1810 and gained prominence for financing Britain’s military operations in the Napoleonic Wars.

‘They spent, I think, the first part of the 19th century making lots of money,’ Jacob said of his ancestors in a 2021 Bloomberg Television interview. ‘They spent a lot of the second half of the 19th century spending it.’

Jacob Rothschild became a partner in N.M. Rothschild & Sons four years after joining the family bank in 1959 and ran its corporate-finance department.

About two decades later, he faced opposition in his efforts to expand the bank’s services from his father Victor and his cousin Evelyn, who took over from Victor as chairman in 1976.

Jacob and Evelyn had a highly publicized split in 1980 over Jacob’s desire to merge with S.G. Warburg & Co., in the hopes of expanding internationally and competing with Wall Street firms.

When Evelyn refused, Jacob quit and founded his offshoot investment vehicle, RIT.

The Rothschild Succession

RIT debuted on the London Stock Exchange in 1988 in the wake of the deregulation of the city’s financial markets, growing assets by than 1,300%.

Jacob Rothschild stepped down as RIT’s chairman in 2019, though his daughter, Hannah, 61, remained on the board of directors of the investment firm, where she oversees a stake of at least 10%, worth more than £250 million.

Other companies Jacob Rothschild co-founded include Global Asset Management and St James’s Place, which was established in 1991 under the name of the J. Rothschild Assurance Group.

Other posts included serving as deputy chairman for BSkyB for five years to 2008, the same year he stepped down from Blackstone’s board.

Jacob Rothschild’s 52-year-old son, Nathaniel, chairman and the major shareholder of UK manufacturer Volex Plc, succeeds him as the 5th Baron Rothschild.

The younger banking scion previously served as a RIT director before his elder sister, Hannah, took on a similar role in 2013.

In recent years, things seemed to have resolved between Jacob’s family and the rest of the dynasty.

Hannah lent financial backing to the move last year to take private Rothschild & Co, the bank that grew out of a merger between the Paris and UK banks.

Evelyn, with whom Jacob had had differences, had played a big role in the coming together of the lenders, before passing away in 2022.

Jacob Rothschild