Eva Rausing: Philanthropist and heiress who struggled against drug addiction

 

Eva Rausing, who has died aged 48, was one of Britain's richest women and part of a dynasty which owed its wealth to an everyday household item, the "Tetra Pak". The invention, which was first brought to market by her husband's grandfather, Ruben Rausing, revolutionised the transport and storage of milk and juices. Her father-in-law moved to the UK from Sweden in 1982 and sold his half-share of Tetra Pak in 1996, making $7 billion.

Eva Rausing was born in the US in 1964, the daughter of Nancy and Thomas Kemeny, an executive at Pepsi-Cola, and grew up in a wealthy and privileged environment. She met her husband, Hans Kristian Rausing, when they were patients at an American rehabilitation clinic.

Hans Kristian Rausing had drifted through life in the shadow of his father, Hans Rausing, and had travelled to India to "find himself". While Hans Kristian's sisters, Lisbet and Sigrid, have been actively involved in the worlds of business and philanthropy, it seems he had trouble coping with the family's immense fortune, together with the freedom and responsibility it brought.

In 2002 the couple purchased one of the 200 apartments on board The World, an exclusive cruise ship where the super-rich can claim an address on the open seas, and live tax free. When the couple's Cadogan Square house was sold in 2006 for over £12 million, they moved to a nearby address in Belgravia.

In an interview with Vogue that year, asked how she handled such wealth, she replied "Be open about it and be active with it." Asked why she found it so hard to refuse requests for money, she said "I would like to think it was guilt but I think it was probably shame, if I can make that distinction. People knew you had money, so you could never say, 'Come back next month.'" Explaining the change in direction towards a more disciplined philanthropy, she emphasised: "Once you start giving away large sums of money and you find the causes you're really interested in, then you can say no quite legitimately."

Organisations with which she became involved included the Mary Rose Trust, Royal Opera House and Prince's Foundation for Building Community. Two charities on which she focused particular attention, because of their work in preventing drug abuse, were Action on Addiction and the Mentor Foundation. She gave £100,000 to establish Mentor in 2000 and had since donated a further £500,000. Eric Carlin, Chief Executive of the charity, which tries to direct young people away from drugs, said: "If it wasn't for Mrs Rausing, I'm not sure we could have stayed afloat."

Her own struggle with drugs had first come to public attention in April 2008. She was arrested after she allegedly tried to bring a small quantity of heroin and crack cocaine into an event at the US Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square. A subsequent police search of their home found more heroin and crack, with a value of £2,000, and the couple were arrested and bailed. The Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges against them three months later on condition that they admit their guilt and agree to regular drugs tests.

Following the incident she said: "I have made a serious mistake which I very much regret. I intend to leave as soon as possible to seek the help that I very much need. I have made a grave error and I consider myself to have taken a wrong turn in the course of my life. I am very sorry for the upset I have caused. I thank my family and friends for their kindness and understanding."

Hank Dittmar, chief executive of the Prince's Foundation, of which she was a trustee, commented at the time: "We support Eva Rausing in her efforts to overcome her problems, and look forward to her completion of her treatment programme. She remains a dedicated member of the Prince's Foundation's board of trustees."

The event cast a spotlight on the normally private lives of the couple. Andy McSmith's feature for this newspaper at the time began: "If Hans K and his wife, Eva, were 25 years younger, you might think them the poor little rich kids. They were born into vast wealth, more money than anyone could spend in a lifetime, reckoned not in millions, but billions."

The circumstances of her death remain unclear. Hans Kristian Rausing was arrested on Tuesday 10 July at their home and then taken for medical treatment. A post-mortem that afternoon was unable to establish a clear cause of death for Eva.

Marcus Williamson

Eva Kemeny, heiress and philanthropist: born US 7 March 1964; married Hans Kristian Rausing (two boys, two girls); found dead, London 10 July 2012.

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