OBITUARY:Jacques Wertheimer

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The Independent Online
Jacques Wertheimer was the third member of one of Europe's oldest and most successful racing dynasties. He took over his family's racing and breeding interests on the death of his mother, Mme Pierre Wertheimer, in 1974.

The first winner in Pierre Wertheimer's blue with white braces, sleeves and cap was in 1911, and the first Wertheimer champion was Epinard in the early 1920s. Since then the Wertheimers have raced and bred a succession of champions and maintained a level of involvement which has become extremely rare in European racing.

Equally unusual is the Wertheimer family's link with the Head family. Alec Head begain to train for Pierre Wertheimer nearly 50 years ago and remains the Wertheimers' principal adviser on all bloodstock matters. When Head retired from training in the 1980s his daughter Christiane took over the Wertheimer string, while Alec's son Freddie Head rode many of Jacques Wertheimer's big race winners.

Last season Jacques Wertheimer had 120 horses in training with Christiane Head in Chantilly and a few with Richard Mandella in California. His 70 broodmares were divided between the Haras de Saint-Leonard-La-Barberie in Normandy and Kentucky. The Haras de Saint- Leonard-La-Barberie, which is only a few miles from Deauville and next door to the Heads' Haras du Quesnay, was a recent purchase. The stud has been completely refurbished with new Kentucky-style barns and a small chateau which was purchased and then moved brick by brick from the l'Orne to its present site overlooking the farm's paddocks.

The Wertheimer mares are, together with those belonging to Stavros Niarchos and to Daniel Wildenstein, one of the most select groups owned by a European. For several equine generations only the world's best stallions have been used and all the best racemares have been retained. At the same time Jacques Wertheimer was always looking for new blood, buying yearlings in Deauville and Kentucky as well as both mares and foals at breeding stock sales. Last November the Wertheimers spent some $2m on five foals and a mare at the Keeneland sales.

In recent years Jacques Wertheimer was rarely seen on the racecourse, leaving that part of the family's racing activities to his sons Alain and Gerard. His best racing season was probably 1975, the first in which the family's horses ran in his name: Green Dancer, Val de l'Orne and Ivanjica won most of France's best races. Green Dancer won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains and the Prix Lupin before disappointing when a short-priced favourite for the Derby at Epsom. Val de l'Orne won all three of his starts: the Prix Noailles, Prix Hocquart and Prix du Jockey-Club, while Ivanjica won the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and the Prix Vermeille and would surely have won the Prix de Diane as well if it had not been cancelled because of a stable lads' strike.

The following year Wertheimer won another Poule d'Essai des Poulains with Red Lord and in the autumn Ivanjica returned to her best form to record the family's first success in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, winning by three lengths from Crow and Youth. After the race Ivanjica, frightened by the photographers, shied sufficiently to unseat her jockey Freddie Head. After a brief solitary gallop she was caught and returned safely to the paddock. Ivanjica has the unusual distinction for a racehorse of having had her portrait painted by Andy Warhol.

The successes continued in the 1970s. Reine de Saba, Dancing Maid, Gay Mecene and Princess Lida were the best Wertheimer winners. Dancing Maid was beaten only a short head by Fair Salinia in the Oaks, while Gay Mecene was second to Troy in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. In 1981 Wertheimer won another Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with the four-year-old filly Gold River. Gold River started at 53/1 after Freddie Head chose to ride Detroit instead, but ridden by Gary Moore the filly narrowly defeated Bikala and April Run.

By the Wertheimers' standards the 1980s were a quiet time after Gold River with the exception of her daughter Riviere d'Or, the winner of the Prix Saint-Alary. The results returned to normal in the 1990s. Riviere d'Or's daughter Gold Splash won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains and the Prix d'Ispahan, while the few horses sent to Richard Mandella in California included the American champion and Breeders' Cup Turf winner Khotashaan as well as the major winners Dare And Go and Corrazona. Last season the Wertheimer colours were also carried by the promising two-year-olds Occupandiste and Seattle Saviour.

The Wertheimer family has contributed a great deal to European racing and breeding. Lyphard and Riverman, who ran in the name of Mme Pierre Wertheimer, and Green Dancer are still among the world's best stallions, and all three stood for five seasons in France before moving to Kentucky. Green Tune takes up stud duties at the Haras d'Etreham this year. There will be no change in the family's racing and breeding operations, which will be taken over by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer.

Jocelyn de Moubray

From 1924 to 1971 the Wertheimer family and Coco Chanel were united in business and divided by lawsuits, conflicts and argument, writes Tony Glenville. But they weathered these storms through the Second World War, the Occupation and the peace, and have since kept a discreet low profile, pushing not their own name, but that of the House of Chanel.

In 1924 Paul and Pierre Wertheimer, whom Coco Chanel knew well, had approached her with the idea of incorporating as Parfums Chanel, in France and world-wide. This meant that Chanel herself owned shares representing 10 per cent of the capital and 10 per cent of the profits from all branches world-wide.

Ten years later Chanel felt that she was being cheated, as the products were being made by the Wertheimers' own company, Bourjois, and by 1939 she wanted out. The war years meant that the fight dragged on and in 1946 the two parties settled out of court.

Until the day he died in 1963 Pierre was the most understanding of financiers and it was the Wertheimers who financed the Chanel come-back in Paris, on Rue Cambon, in 1954.

On Pierre's death Jacques assumed the responsibility of running the Chanel empire. He was 55 and had spent most of his adult life in the racing stables. Coco Chanel was said to refer to him as "the kid". It is true that he was not an experienced businessman, but the 30-odd years he was with the company in some ways witnessed its greatest commercial success. He was there for the last eight years of Coco Chanel's designing life and latterly watched Karl Lagerfeld take the house from safe classic to household name.

John Fairchild of Women's Wear Daily has paid tribute to the Wertheimers' achievement in building an empire that today is "the envy of every other fashion firm". "It was only with those profits [from the Chanel name]," he said, "and the hysterical press coverage they brought that the top designers could ever afford the luxury of making couture clothes for the very rich."

Jacques Wertheimer left a discreet but indelible mark on the world of fashion. Perhaps it was not his first love, but in the end he understood it very well.

Jacques Wertheimer, businessman, racehorse owner, breeder: born 1910; married (two sons); died Paris c 5 February 1996.