What is bothering the head of the French Rothschilds, who has departed from the operational management of the family business

David de Rothschild talks about the fall and rise of Rothschild & Co and defends his student Emmanuel Macron

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The head of the French clan Rothschilds dedicated his life to the revival, preservation and enhancement of the family business, and now he likes to watch how things are going.

Perhaps the Spanish serenade is to blame for everything. Or the heat of the late summer caused us to ruin despite the midday breeze. But here we are – David de Rothschild and I – sipping our second espresso, talk about the romantic exploits of Francois Hollande.

“I really don’t know if he is good as a lover, but women like him,” said my 75-year-old interviewee about the former president, whom journalists caught when he started on a scooter from the Elysée Palace to see the lady of the heart (in 2014 – “Vedomosti”). “Well, some women,” and so tempts me to throw back.

For a second, I wonder what the amorous adventures of Hollande have to do with our conversation. For the first time, the patriarch of the French Rothschild clan eased defensive barriers after an hour and a half of lively, but very measured conversation. Hollande can serve as a reason to transfer the conversation to his successor, Emmanuel Macron, a pupil of Rothschild. A former Macron employer eagerly talks about the positive qualities of a 40-year-old president after I point out his arrogant management style and falling rating. In liberal circles abroad, Macron is still considered a rock star, but at home his image of a wise monarch begins to fade.

Rothschild & Co

Financial holding

Shareholders (company data as of August 6, 2018, voting share): members of the shareholder agreement – the Rothschild family, Morel, etc. (63.6%), Jardine Matheson (7.4%), the rest is in free circulation (29 %). 
Capitalization – 2.6 billion euros. 
Financial performance (2017): 
revenue – 1.9 billion euros, 
net profit – 247 million euros, 
assets under management – 74.8 billion euros. 
The company is engaged in financial consulting in the field of mergers and acquisitions, debt management and business restructuring, asset management and personal capital, etc.

Hollande “is very smart, he is a cultured person, pleasant. But, in fact, why did he leave? Because he could not make decisions, because he always hesitated. He lost confidence abroad and came to the conclusion <…> that you should not be re-elected. This is unusual, says Rothschild. – I prefer the determined Macron, whose main desire is to succeed. For what does a man want at his age? He does not need today’s honors in exchange for the failure of tomorrow. ” I tease Rothschild: Macron must have experienced the power of his charisma on him.

Macron, who worked for a little more than three years in a French-British investment bank before going into politics, had a good teacher. When I arrive at L’Affable in advance, one of the new-fashioned chic bistros located in the vicinity of Saint-Germain Boulevard, Rothschild is already sitting by the window, wearing a banker’s uniform – a light gray jacket, a pastel blue shirt and a dark blue tie. He waves and stands, greeting me. His wide smile perfectly embodies the name of the restaurant (l’affable in French – friendly, courteous. – “Vedomosti”).

Bistro at this hour is buzzing from the people. Dinners at small wooden tables do not pay attention to the flea market and join the happy hubbub. Like many fashionable Parisian bistros, ours didn’t buy air conditioning. My guest has to use a white handkerchief to wipe his forehead. The Rothschilds, who live nearby in a posh area, which is often visited by ministerial staff and Science Po students, are rare clients. “I wanted more extraordinary,” he admits. We quickly discuss the menu. For a snack – carpaccio of sea bass, then a lamb with avocados for Monsieur Baron and a curry of fish drummer for me.

Name fight

Conflicts periodically arise between different branches of the Rothschilds. In 2012, David de Rothschild stopped the struggle of the French and British relatives, combining the continental Rothschild & Cie and the island NM Rothschild into a single structure. And in 2015, a surprise was presented by relatives from Switzerland. Barely becoming CEO of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, Arian de Rothschild filed a lawsuit against the French, challenging the right to use the name of Rothschild. Only after three years of proceedings in court, Alexander Rothschild contributed to the dialogue, and in June of this year the relatives agreed among themselves. Now no company has the right to use one last name Rothschild, only full names. This applies to everything from official documents to signatures on business cards and email addresses. So, Rothschild & Co should always write “Rothschild & Co and change the domain of the site from www.rothschild.com to www.rothschildandco.com, reports FT. Edmond de Rothschild should not “forget” to write “Edmond de”. In addition to family ties, the financiers also had cross-ownership of shares: until August 6, Rothschild & Co owned 8.4% of Edmond de Rothschild, and that was 5.7% in it and 9.5% in the parent company Rothschild Holding.

For the first time, we met with Rothschild at lunch a dozen years ago in a formal setting – at a bank, in the midst of a boom in mergers and acquisitions that preceded the financial crisis. I noted for myself that bragging, as other bankers did then, was below his dignity. Now we are meeting after the reins of the family bank were transferred (in May 2018 to Vedomosti) to his son Alexander, a 37-year-old former investment analyst, who inherited the same restrained elegance.

Continuity is an important thing in the life of the Rothschilds, the dynasty originating in the Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt in the 18th century. Of the five branches founded by the sons of Mayer Amschel in the UK and on the European continent, two in Paris and London provided the family with a prominent role in European history, from the lenders of the warring states to modern financiers, excellent winemakers and representatives of the high society.

Describing the transfer of power, Rothschild Sr. insists that there was no “Olympic flame transfer ceremony”. He describes the transfer of power as the outcome of a 10-year process (formally his son in the family business since 2008 – “Vedomosti”), during which Alexander showed himself by launching an investment business at a bank and having recently started a dialogue with his Swiss relatives – about rights in the name of Rothschild. He was delighted when his son said that it was his time to work in a bank. Now the patriarch is madly in favor of following the business, without being drawn into solving daily problems. A glass of somur-champigny is brought to us, and we drink for it. Soon they serve a snack of sea bass, translucent slices on a stone plate, sprinkled with pickled radish and basil. “From this, we are definitely not getting five kilograms thick,” my interlocutor grins.

When 39 years ago he accepted the affairs of his father Guy, there was no question …

read more in Russian at Vedomosti

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