David Rockefeller: Billionaire banker and philanthropist dies aged 101
Billionaire philanthropist David Rockefeller has died aged 101, a family spokesman has announced.
The influential banker and political spokesman was the chairman and chief executive of US banking giant Chase Manhattan throughout the 1970s.
Reuters news agency reported that he died in his sleep at his home in Pocantico Hills, New York, on Monday.
He was the last surviving grandson of oil tycoon John D Rockefeller and was the youngest of six children born to John D. Rockefeller Jr.
He was the guardian of his family’s fortune and head of a sprawling network of family interests, both business and philanthropic, that ranged from environmental conservation to the arts.
To mark his 100th birthday in 2015, Rockefeller gave 1,000 acres of land next to a national park to the state of Maine.
Despite never seeking public office – unlike his siblings – David Rockefeller wielded power and influence through other means.
Rockefeller graduated from Harvard in 1936 and received a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago in 1940.
He served in the Army during World War II, then began climbing the ranks of management at Chase Bank. That bank merged with The Manhattan Company in 1955.
He was named Chase Manhattan’s president in 1961 and chairman and chief executive officer eight years later. He retired in 1981 aged 65 after a 35-year career.
In his role of business statesman, Rockefeller preached capitalism at home and favored assisting economies abroad on grounds that bringing prosperity to the Third World would create customers for American products.
He parted company with some of his fellow capitalists on income taxes, calling it unseemly to earn $1 million and then find ways to avoid paying taxes on it.
He didn’t say how much he paid in taxes and never spoke publicly about his personal worth. In 2015, Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $3 billion.
Under Rockefeller, Chase was the first U.S. bank to open offices in the Soviet Union and China and, in 1974, the first to open an office in Egypt after the Suez crisis of 1956.
In his early travels to South Africa, Rockefeller arranged clandestine meetings with several underground black leaders. “I find it terribly important to get overall impressions beyond those I get from businessmen,” he said.
But Rockefeller took a lot of heat for his bank’s substantial dealings with South Africa’s white separatist regime and for helping the deposed, terminally ill Shah of Iran come to New York for medical treatment in 1979, the move that triggered the 13-month U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.
Rockefeller maintained the family’s patronage of the arts, including its long-standing relationship with New York’s Museum of Modern Art, of which his mother had been a fervent patron. His private art collection was once valued at $500 million.
His philanthropy and other activities earned him a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1998.
Rockefeller and his wife, the former Margaret McGrath, married in 1940 and had six children – David Jr., Richard, Abby, Neva, Margaret and Eileen. His wife, an active conservationist, died in 1996.