Jacob Rothschild, Banker Who Broke From His Fabled Family, Dies at 87

Jacob Rothschild, a wealthy financier, patron of the arts and philanthropist with close ties to Israel, who broke with his family’s fabled banking dynasty at a time of radical change in the world of high finance, has died. He was 87.

His death was announced on Monday by the Rothschild Foundation, a British charity of which he was the chairman. It did not specify when or where he died or give the cause of death.

Mr. Rothschild — more formally the fourth Baron Rothschild — was descended from Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a coin trader in the Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt, who sent four of his five sons to Vienna, London, Naples and Paris to seek their fortune in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

For most of the 19th century, the House of Rothschild was the biggest bank in the world “by a wide margin,” Jonathan Steinberg, an American scholar, wrote in The London Review of Books in 1999. The fortune of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the son who founded the bank’s London branch, “can be compared to that of Bill Gates today,” Mr. Steinberg added.

Most accounts of the Rothschilds’ wealth trace its origins to a decision to finance the British military in the Napoleonic Wars. But the broader dynasty flourished on cementing its family bonds and cultivating what Mr. Steinberg called “everybody who was anybody at the top of European society during this period.”

It was against this historical backdrop that Jacob Rothschild joined the London arm of the family’s empire at the N.M. Rothschild & Sons bank in 1963. Until then he had followed a route familiar to the British elite, educated at Eton College and at Christchurch College, Oxford.

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