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Jacob Rothschild, financier and member of the banking family, dies at 87



Jacob Rothschild, the financier, philanthropist and scion of the Rothschild banking family, has died aged 87.


The City grandee started his career at the family bank NM Rothschild & Sons before leaving in 1980 to co-found a number of companies including J Rothschild Assurance Group, now St James’s Place, with Sir Mark Weinberg.


Lord Rothschild held a number of senior roles in the City, including deputy chair of BSkyB between 2003 and 2008. He was chair of RIT Capital Partners, one of the largest investment trusts quoted on the London Stock Exchange, from 1988 to 2019.


He played a prominent national role in arts and philanthropy, including as chair of trustees of the National Gallery between 1985 and 1991 and chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund between 1992 and 1998, which oversaw the distribution of £1.2bn in grants to the heritage sector.


He was active in the work to restore Somerset House in London and was awarded the order of merit in 2002, which recognises outstanding service in the field of arts, literature, learning and science.


Tributes were paid on Monday from the world of business and politics. St James’s Place said it was “deeply saddened”. “As a hugely accomplished financier and a co-founder of St James’s Place, Lord Rothschild leaves an extraordinary legacy in helping to shape the financial advice profession in the UK,” it said.


The former chancellor George Osborne, now chair of trustees at the British Museum, paid tribute in a post on X. “He made the very most of the privilege he was born into, contributing hugely to the cultural and commercial life of Britain,” Osborne wrote. “His contributions to the Waddesdon gallery make it one of the jewels of the British Museum. Smart, curious, full of new projects and with a dry humour. He will be missed.”


Ed Vaizey, a Conservative peer who was culture minister between 2010 and 2016, praised Rothschild as “one of Britain’s greatest cultural philanthropist who did so much to support the arts in this country”.


Educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, Rothschild was regarded as one of the sharpest brains in the City in the 1980s and was involved in a number of high-profile deals, including a failed £13bn bid for British American Tobacco in 1989 with fellow business tycoons Sir James Goldsmith and Kerry Packer.


In a statement issued to the PA news agency, his 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.”


Rothschild was married for more than five decades to Serena, who died in 2019, and leaves three daughters and a son as well as a number of grandchildren.

In a statement on X, the Rothschild Foundation wrote: “He will be greatly missed by his family, his colleagues and his many friends.”


Rothschild sat as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords between April 1991 and November 1999 when legislation introduced by the then Labour government reformed the chamber and removed the majority of hereditary peers.

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