June 14, 2024

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Benjamin de Rothschild, Banking Scion, Dead at 57

Benjamin de Rothschild, the billionaire owner of Edmond de Rothschild, has died. He was 57.

Born in France in 1963, Benjamin de Rothschild was part of the eponymous French-British dynasty which traces its wealthy roots back to the 18th century. He died at 57 on Friday afternoon in Pregny, Switzerland of a heart attack, the bank said in a statement (in French).

Benjamin de Rothschild, who chaired Edmond de Rothschild, is survived by his wife, Ariane de Rothschild, who runs the 173 billion Swiss franc ($195 billion) Genevan wealth manager, and four daughters, as well as his mother, Nadine de Rothschild.

Eponymous Name

A graduate of Pepperdine University in California, Benjamin de Rothschild took over at Edmond de Rothschild in 1997, the year his father died. Baron Edmond de Rothschild was a prominent French financier who founded the eponymous bank in Geneva in 1953. 

Benjamin was an adrenaline junkie who reportedly loved racing motorcycles and driving Formula 1 Ferraris. The adventure-seeking personality carried over to the bank, which sponsors an 32-meter trimaran to compete in a storied yacht race circumnavigating the globe.

New Swiss Identity

This branch of the French blue-blooded family ended up in Switzerland after Benjamin’s grandfather was declared a «noncitizen» for opposing the post-Nazi Vichy regime during World War II. Benjamin installed Ariane de Rothschild as the first female CEO in the family in 2015.

The couple then led the going-private of the Swiss bank two years ago. Like most Swiss wealth managers, Edmond de Rothschild struggled to carve out a new identity following the end of banking secrecy. 

Division Of Power

The division of labor between Benjamin and Ariane raised eyebrows in Switzerland’s cloistered wealth industry. While he increasingly withdrew, she was unafraid to take over – and to alienate would-be allies and call out rivals, according to a critical Swiss press report (in French) three years ago. 

Benjamin’s elderly mother was reportedly so unhappy that she moved her money to rival Pictet – the ultimate insult among family wealth managers. Ariane de Rothschild never addressed this publicly, though she told the «Financial Times» (behind paywall) in 2016 that Benjamin «has a great distance, a completely different temper. I admire it because I can’t. I have to be totally hands-on.»

Spat Between Cousins

In 2019, she brought in a CEO for Edmond de RothschildVincent Taupin, following the revamp which led to its delisting. Benjamin oversaw the bank’s holding company until his death. 

Though related to the family which controls the other Swiss private bank – Rothschild & Co – the two firms went separate ways, recently burying a long-simmering spat between cousins over the family name. 

Benjamin’s branch of the family is estimated to be worth north of $3 billion. Besides Edmond de Rothschild, the family owns vineyards including in Argentina, the Four Seasons Hotel in upscale French ski resort Megève, and the Gitana fleet of racing boats.