British Financier Jacob Rothschild Dies

Jacob Rothschild, the banker and philanthropist who left the family bank to build his own financial empire in the City of London, has died. He was 87.

Rothschild’s family confirmed his death in a statement to the Press Association. No cause was given.

“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, a passionate supporter of charitable causes in Israel and Jewish culture, a keen environmentalist and much-loved friend, father and grandfather,” the family said in the statement.

Rothschild left N.M. Rothschild & Sons Ltd. in 1980 to focus on Rothschild Investment Trust after resigning from his family firm over a dispute about its direction. The offshoot business — now known as RIT Capital Partners Plc — is one of the UK’s largest investment trusts with £3.5 billion ($4.4 billion) in net assets at the end of November.

Along with RIT, he co-founded the asset manager St. James’s Place Plc and formed part of a trio that joined forces three decades ago in a $21 billion aborted hostile takeover bid for British American Tobacco Plc.

Rothschild was also one of the UK’s leading philanthropists. He chaired 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.

Hoylake - British-American Tobacco
Jacob Rothschild, left, with Sir James Goldsmith, center, and Kerry Packer launching their takeover bid for British American Tobacco Plc.Photographer: Martin Keene/PA/Getty Images

Rothschild also followed other members of the far-flung family in having charitable interests in Israel. He was chairman of Yad Hanadiv, the family foundation, which gave the Knesset and the Supreme Court buildings to the nation.

He 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.

Eton College

Nathaniel Charles Jacob Rothschild was born on April 28, 1936. Educated at Eton College and the University of Oxford, he became a partner in N.M. Rothschild & Sons four years after joining the family bank in 1959 and ran its corporate-finance department.

He belonged to the seventh generation of a banking dynasty that originated with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a rare-coin dealer born in 1744 who advised German aristocrats on their finances. He sent his sons to major European cities to do business with cash-strapped governments, and 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. About 150 years later, Jacob 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 of N.M. Rothschild & Sons Ltd. in 1976.

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% now worth more than £250 million.

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