Benjamin de Rothschild, chairman of the holding company for the Franco-Swiss private bank and asset manager Edmond de Rothschild, has died of a heart attack at the age of 57, the group announced on Saturday.
De Rothschild had already stepped back from the day-to-day running of the financial business he inherited from his father Edmond, leaving it in the hands of his energetic wife Ariane, while he pursued his passion for high-speed yacht racing and cars.
“He has a great distance, a completely different temper,” she once told the FT. “I admire it because I can’t. I have to be totally hands-on.”
The group described Benjamin de Rothschild as a “visionary entrepreneur, passionate about finance, speed, sailing and automobiles, wine enthusiast [and] and active philanthropist”.
He leaves behind a family business created in 1953 that now has SFr173bn ($194bn) of assets under management. As well as wealth management, the group is involved in corporate finance, private equity and property. It employs 2,600 people at 32 locations across the world.
Cynthia Tobiano, deputy chief executive, said Edmond de Rothschild’s business would not be affected by Benjamin’s sudden death.
“Obviously they discussed and took long-term decisions at the family holding level with him, but at the bank level Ariane is chairing the board, and with the executive committee designing and executing the strategy.” Edmond de Rothschild, based in Geneva, was taken wholly private in 2019.
Ms Tobiano added: “Covid is a catalyst to go even further and faster on digitalisation when you can’t meet clients face to face.”
Two branches of the extended Rothschild family finally settled a dispute over the name three years ago, with Paris-based investment bank Rothschild & Co and Edmond de Rothschild unwinding cross-shareholdings and agreeing not to use the Rothschild name by itself in branding.
Last year Sergei Bogdanchikov, former head of Russia’s Rosneft, accused Edmond de Rothschild of engaging in a kickback scheme that pilfered millions of dollars from his investment fund and ultimately cost him more than $100m. The private bank declined to comment on the continuing case.
In recent years, however, Benjamin de Rothschild was more focused on the family’s sailing sponsorships than on the business, including a campaign under way now for Gitana team’s high-speed, hydrofoiling trimaran to win the Jules Verne trophy by breaking the world record for circumnavigation under sail — which is currently just under 41 days.
Victory in that challenge, said Ms Tobiano, “would be a great legacy, and one he would have loved.”