‘Towering presence’ Lord Jacob Rothschild dies aged 87

26 February 2024, 17:24

Lord Jacob Rothschild
Death of Lord Jacob Rothschild. Picture: PA

Lord Rothschild started his career in the family bank in 1963, before going on to found businesses and charitable foundations.

Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair has been among those paying tribute to financier and member of the well-known Rothschild banking dynasty, Lord Jacob Rothschild, after his death at the age of 87.

Described by his family as a “towering presence in many people’s lives”, Lord Rothschild started his career in the family bank, NM Rothschild & Sons, in 1963.

He went on to found businesses and charitable foundations and was a renowned patron of the arts and philanthropist.

Lord Rothschild’s family have an estimated fortune of about £825 million, according to last year’s Sunday Times Rich List, and give away a reported £66 million to Jewish causes, education and art.

In a statement to the PA news agency, the family said: “Our father Jacob was a towering presence in many people’s 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.

“He will be buried in accordance with Jewish custom in a small family ceremony and there will be a memorial at a later date to celebrate his life.”

Tributes poured in for Lord Rothschild from across the business, political and cultural sectors.

Sir Tony, who now runs the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change think tank, said: “Jacob was a dear friend and a wonderful human being. I will miss him immensely.

“He was of course a towering figure in Britain’s Jewish community but his impact was global in his support for great causes, including in the arts and the environment, and in his tireless work to advance peace in the Middle East.”

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, ex-chancellor George Osborne, who is now chairman of the British Museum, said Lord Rothschild “made the very most of the privilege he was born into, contributing hugely to the cultural and commercial life of Britain”.

He said: “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.”

Born in Berkshire, Lord Rothschild was educated at Eton College and studied history at Christ Church College, Oxford.

After leaving the Rothschild bank he took control of Rothschild Investment Trust, now RIT Capital Partners, and later co-founded the then J Rothschild Assurance Group, now St James’s Place, with Sir Mark Weinberg in 1980.

He was chairman of RIT Capital Partners, one of the largest investment trusts quoted on the London Stock Exchange, until 2019, and was also deputy chairman at then BSkyB Television, director of RHJ International, now known as BHF Kleinwort Benson Group, and was a member of the council for the Duchy of Cornwall for the then Prince of Wales.

In the cultural sector he was chairman of trustees at The National Gallery and chairman of The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

H also sat for numerous portraits, including by Lucian Freud and David Hockney.

The National Gallery tweeted: “Jacob Rothschild was a businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist and cultural leader.

“Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

Lord Rothschild also founded Windmill Hill Asset Management, to manage the family’s philanthropic portfolio, and was chairman of the trustees for The Rothschild Foundation charity.

One of his biggest philanthropic commitments was to Waddesdon Manor and the Waddesdon estate in Buckinghamshire, having taken over the management on behalf of the National Trust from his cousin Dorothy de Rothschild in 1988.

In a post on X, the Rothschild Foundation and Waddesdon Manor said they were “deeply saddened” by his death.

“He will be greatly missed by his family, his colleagues and his many friends,” they said.

The Rothschild Foundation said Lord Rothschild’s daughter, Hannah Rothschild, would succeed him as chairman of the charity.

The foundation added: “Jacob Rothschild was an extraordinary person and his loss will be felt by many.

“The family is committed to continuing his legacy and the foundation which he loved and endowed.”

He was married for more than 50 years to Serena, who died in 2019 and with whom he had four children, Hannah, Beth, Emily and Nat, and many grandchildren.

By Press Association