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Lord Jacob Rothschild dies at 87

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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.

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 most prominent 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 built by one of his many wealthy ancestors, from 1990 to 1995.

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 and ran its corporate-finance department. 

The Rothschild banking dynasty originates with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a rare-coin dealer born in 1744 who advised German aristocrats on their finances. He sent his five 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. 

Since debuting on the London Stock Exchange in 1988 in the wake of the deregulation of the city’s financial markets, RIT has grown more than 1,300%.

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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