Ariane de Rothschild ran family bank during late husband's addiction

The powerhouse behind the French Rothschilds: Financier Ariane de Rothschild, 55, rescued the family’s Geneva bank as her late husband struggled with heroin – AND presides over a perfume house and vineyards

  • Billionaire banking heir Benjamin de Rothschild died on January 15th at the age of 57 following a heart attack
  • Despite taking over Geneva bank that bears his name at 34, it is de Rothschild’s ambitious blonde wife Ariane, 55, a mother-of-four, who is now president and has ensured the investment house has continued to prosper 
  • Employees at the bank haven’t always warmed to the ambitious blonde aristocrat, described as ‘outspoken’ 
  • Other assets in the glamorous blonde Baroness’ portfolio include luxury perfume brand House of Caron, a string of luxury properties and a kosher wine vineyard 

The death of billionaire banking heir Benjamin de Rothschild, who died two weeks ago aged just 57, might have been expected to signal huge uncertainty for Edmond de Rothschild, the historic Swiss bank which still bears his father’s prestigious name.   

However, it seems that, on the contrary, the driving force behind the historic Geneva bank – and a whole portfolio of other assets including a perfume house, luxury hotels and a vineyard – was never the thrill-seeking father-of-four…but instead his dynamic, and hugely talented, wife. 

Seemingly the epitome of a city slicker supermum with a clutch of A-list friends, Ariane de Rothschild, 55, who married into the Rothschild banking dynasty when she wed Benjamin in January 1999, has long since ensured the private investment house is a steady – and successful ship, overseeing an ambitious overhaul after the brand faltered in the early noughties and ensuring it could survive the kind of family tragedy that has sadly now ensued. 

Benjamin, whose battle with heroin addiction was well documented, died of a heart attack at the couple’s grandiose home, Château de Pregny on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, on Friday 15th January, at the age of just 57. Dubbed ‘the richest Rothschild’, he was heir to $2.5billion fortune.  

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The couple pictured in 2013 with daughter Noemie, left ; the Baroness admits that she was happy to be undisturbed by her children’s schools while working, saying: ‘I always said to the schools, “If my daughters have acceptable grades, don’t call me. Why do you have to keep calling?”‘

The glamorous blonde, unapologetically outspoken, seems to effortlessly mix running the Geneva-based family bank, which handles around $194 billion in asset management finance, with a glamorous party life her late husband shied away from in favour of pursuing his passion for yacht racing and fast cars (Pictured: Paris National Opera dance director Benjamin Millepied, his wife actress Natalie Portman, centre, and Ariane de Rothschild)

European dynasty: The entire Rothschild family descends from Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a powerful 18th century banker from Frankfurt, whose sons brought the family name to London, Paris, Vienna and Naples

Ariane, who met Benjamin in Manhattan in the nineties and was wooed with a dozen red roses sent to her trader desk, shares daughters Noémie, Alice, Eve and Olivia – aged between 18 and 25 – with her late husband. 

Never content to lavish in the riches that such a fortune can afford, the baroness has instead been heavily involved in the bank since her husband found it in his sole control when he was just 34. 

The ex New York banking whizz currently oversees around $194 billion in asset management finance, and unlike her late husband, is partial to a high society party or cutting the ribbon on a five-star ski hotel opening, something he became less and less comfortable with. 

Far from straying from her first career, Ariane admits she relishes it, and despite taking off several years from work to raise her four daughters, once they reached school age, she said recently that she was more than happy to hand over their education to their respective private schools.

In an interview with Tatler before her late husband’s death, the statuesque blonde said her pursuits are ’70 per cent banking’ and she’s credited with turning the once faltering bank back into sizeable profit 

In an interview with Tatler shortly before her husband’s death she recalled how she was happy to be a hands-off parent when it came to her daughter’s schooling, saying: ‘I always said to the schools, “If my daughters have acceptable grades, don’t call me. Why do you have to keep calling?”.’ 

The baroness admits the bank now takes up the majority of her working life, saying: ‘Banking is 70 per cent of my time, the rest is the rest. I like to have an elastic brain.’

Among the ‘rest’ is the Parisian perfume brand the House of Caron, which has been creating fragrances for 117 years but was also desperately in need of a revamp when Ariane decided to snap it up two years ago. 

There’s also a kosher wine and vineyards partnership, now 30 years old, with Royal Wine Corp plus multiple inherited vineyards across the globe including in Argentina, France and South Africa. 

Driving force: Billionaire banking heir Benjamin de Rothschild died on January 15th at the age of 57 following a heart attack. The banking scion had increasingly retreated from the Geneva bank that bears his father’s name in recent decades – but wife Ariane, 55, has taken on the prestigious bank with relish, all while raising the couple’s four daughters – aged between 18 and 25 

While her late husband shied away from parties, the baroness has embraced the high society shindigs that come with the family’s surname (Ariane pictured at the Azzedine Alaia Perfum Launch Party in Paris in 2015)

It’s thought she’s hopeful her offspring will take on the fragrance brand, with youngest daughter, Olivia already designing a bottle for the company’s Aimez-Moi Comme Je Suis fragrance.

The family tends to promote male heirs over female ones to higher rank of the Rothschild’s, and prior to Edmond’s death, his cousin David’s son Alexander was seen at a likely successor, the FT wrote in 2016.

However, the same article noted that Ariane had discussed the issue of with Jacob Rothschild, the British financier who left NM Rothschild [the U.K. merchant bank that became part of the Rothschild Group] after a fall out in 1980. 

Benjamin with his mother Nadine and wife Ariane in 2000 shortly after the couple were wed in January 1999

Benjamin’s parents: Edmond de Rothschild and his wife Nadine in 1987

The entire Rothschild family descends from Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a powerful 18th century banker from Frankfurt, whose sons brought the family name to London, Paris, Vienna and Naples. 

Despite Benjamin being the only son of Edmond de Rothschild, the scion apparently found little pleasure in being involved with the eponymous Swiss banking group.

Indeed, as Benjamin stood back, distracted by a passion for fast cars, motorbikes and high-speed yacht races – as well as big game hunting, his glamorous wife stepped up – at her husband’s request. 

In 1997, he was arrested for heroin possession, and had another brush with the police in 2007 following an affray with a laser pointer. 

A string of failed CEO appointments in the years before had seen profits slump by around 11 per cent, something which quickly transformed once Arine took the helm as Chief Executive and began enacting her plan to restore it to its former glory.   

Outspoken Ariane, who was born Ariane Langner, enjoyed a global childhood in El Salvador, Bangladesh and Colombia thanks to her father’s job as a senior executive at an international pharmaceutical company.  

Prior to Ariane’s rise to the top of the family bank, the couple were heavily involved in philanthropy, overseeing a foundation that supports education in Isreal. They also backed the Adolphe de Rothschild Foundation Hospital in Paris.    

The baroness is said to be unfazed by the heavy workload that banking brings but understands passing on the investment house to her four daughters isn’t the easiest sell and she’s had to steel them for the positives and negatives in life that their famous surnames might bring, telling them: ‘You are what you do – and to rebalance the weight of the name, you need to be very strong.’

In a profile on the ‘married-in CEO’ the Financial Times said Ariane ‘had come to wield great, and controversial, authority within the family.’ 

THE BRITISH ARM OF THE ROTHCHILD FAMILY TREE

The British branch of the Rothschild family, in a different approach to some of their European counterparts, are very happy to mix parties and politics – and the latest generation have multiple aristocratic marriages between them.  

Sisters Kate and Alice Rothschild, granddaughters of Victor, 3rd Baron Rothschild, married brothers Ben and Zac Goldsmith, respectively, in high profile weddings. Kate and Ben are now divorced. Their brother, James Rothschild married hotel heiress Nicky Hilton, sister of socialite Paris, in 2015.


Famous British members of the Rothschild family (from left): Alice Rothschild with her husband Zac Goldsmith; Kate Rothschild with her then husband Ben Goldsmith in 2011. The pair are now divorced

Meanwhile Nathaniel Rothschild, son and heir of Jacob, 4th Baron Rothschild, was married to socialite Annabelle Neilson, who died in 2018 at the age of 49. He is now married to former Page 3 girl Loretta Basey.

Nathaniel, known as Nat, also has highly publicised friendships with people such as Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska whose £80million yacht was the scene of an infamous gathering in Corfu with George Osborne and Peter Mandelson which led to Nat’s dramatic and widely reported fall-out with Mr Osborne, an old school friend. 

In Europe, the Rothschild family has known tumultuous times. Amschel Rothschild, son of the 3rd Baron Rothschild who married Anita Guinness, took his own life aged 41 at the Le Bristol hotel in Paris in 1996. The French and Swiss branches of the family were also locked in a public feud over the use of the Rothschild name. It was resolved in 2018.

In January, Benjamin’s death was announced in a statement from the bank that bears his name.  

It read: ‘It is with great emotion and deep sadness that Edmond de Rothschild Group announces the passing of Benjamin de Rothschild.

‘The thoughts of the Group’s employees go out to his wife Ariane de Rothschild and his children, as well as to all his family and loved ones, to whom they extend their most sincere condolences.

‘Visionary entrepreneur, passionate about finance, speed, sailing and automobiles, wine enthusiast, Benjamin de Rothschild was also an active philanthropist, namely involved in developing innovation within the Adolphe de Rothschild Foundation Hospital.

‘With his unique character, Benjamin de Rothschild never ceased to transform and modernise his legacy, in line with the family’s values.’

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