From Libya to London: the world of a wild child turned power-broker
The financier Nat Rothschild is at the centre of a web of international intrigue, reports Lewis Smith
Monday 24 August 2009
Once again, the name of Nat Rothschild has emerged at the centre of web of intrigue, with questions over his links to Libya, his friendship with Peter Mandelson and his alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
Indeed, his name seems to be linked with almost every influential, rich and powerful person on the globe, from billionaires to presidents and royalty. But it wasn't always like that. For years Nat Rothschild appeared destined to be yet another scion of the rich and famous who had it all and blew it all – mainly through partying.
At some point in the mid-1990s he underwent an almost Damascene conversion into a responsible financier, who managed to channel his gambling instincts into money-making investments for a hedge fund.
As his skills in handling investments helped turn the Atticus hedge fund into a multibillion pound concern, so his personal stock rose – in the 13 years he has been with Atticus he has built up his own multimillion pound fortune, quite apart from the £500m he is expected to inherit one day from his father, Jacob, the fourth Baron Rothschild. He has also become an increasingly influential figure not just in the world of finance but in political circles.
Influence is something deeply familiar to the Rothschilds, whose banking concerns have been a force in Europe for two centuries, but for the member of the Bullingdon Club who once rolled an occupied portable loo down a slope, it seemed an unlikely future. Instead of partying with models and socialites, these days he is more likely to be found hob-nobbing with some of the world's richest and most powerful people.
His sphere of influence, it has been revealed, now extends even into Libya, which during the 1980s and 1990s was reviled as a terrorist state. Seif Gaddafi, President Muammar Gaddafi's son, was the guest of honour at a party held by the financier in New York in 2008 and this year he allowed his home in Corfu to be the venue for a meeting between the Libyan and Lord Mandelson.
The meeting took place earlier this month, just a week before it emerged that the Scottish executive was considering the release from prison of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. Lord Mandelson has accepted that Megrahi came up in the discussions but he strongly denied any suggestion he interfered in the decision to release the prisoner.
Nat Rothschild's interests are further thought to overlap with those of Seif Gaddafi in Montenegro, where he has been linked to investments in the £500m Porto Montenegro project, which is intended to give the country a leading marina. Gaddafi is thought to be keen, signing up to a range of deals in Montenegro to benefit Libya.
Prior to winning friends in Tripoli, the former wild child had built up enviable contacts and deals with Russian oligarchs. Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, is reported to be one of Rothschild's closest friends and he has been appointed as an adviser to Oleg Deripaska, the owner of Rusal, which became the biggest aluminium company in the world as part of a merger deal with two other companies that Rothschild helped to put together.
Deripaska, described as Russia's richest man and the Kremlin's favourite oligarch, had a fortune estimated at more than £16bn in 2007 and is believed to be close to Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister. It was Deripaska whom George Osborne, the Conservative front-bencher, was said to have spoken to about a £50,000 donation to the Tory party. The MP admitted he discussed a donation but denied asking for or receiving any money.
The row blew up when Mr Rothschild accused Mr Osborne of approaching the oligarch for a donation. He is thought to have been prompted by a breach of etiquette on the MP's part by leaking the story of Lord Mandelson meeting the oligarch on a yacht – the two politicians were Rothschild's guests. The row soured a friendship between the MP and the financier which dated back to contemporary membership of the Bullingdon Club.
Mr Rothschild's success in recent years has come as a surprise to many who knew him in his wilder days. Peter Munk, the founder and chairman of Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold producer, recalled meeting the future fifth Baron Rothschild in the lobby of a London hotel in 2001.
The financier was hoping to persuade Mr Munk to invest in Atticus but failed to impress at first hearing. "He did not carry the halo of being the future of the family. I wanted to get rid of the boy," said the gold producer who now has him on his own advisory board.
It is thought that as a young man Nat Rothschild was intimidated by the prospect of having to live up to the achievements of his father and ancestors. Now, he is seen as a man who may well set new high standards for his family. Mr Munk added: "This kid is special. It's back to when they [the Rothschilds] were ruling the world."
"He is one of the few sons of great men who has enhanced the family stature and created his own wealth," said Charles Phillips, who supervised him when he worked at the investment firm Gleacher & Co.
Spheres of influence: Rothschilds connections
The Russian oligarch owns Rusal, the world’s biggest aluminium company. Rothschild has won a position as an adviser to Deripaska and one of his select inner circle.
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi
Investment interests thought to overlap in Montenegro. He recently hosted a party with guests including Rothschild Prince Albert of Monaco and steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.
Atticus employed Finsbury, which is run by Rudd, as its PR firm. Rudd is a friend of Lord Mandelson and Oleg Deripaska is another of Finsbury’s clients.
The founder of the hedge fund Atticus took on Rothchild in 1995. The two have never looked back. Atticus is now a multi-billion concern and its success has enabled Rothschild to make his own fortune instead of relying on his father’s money.
The Russian oligarch and billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club is a close friend of Rothschild. It was through Abramovich that Rothschild met Deripaska.
The depth of the friendship is uncertain but Lord Mandelson has been linked to Rothchild on several fronts, including as a guest at his Corfu home.
Having known each other for years relations soured when Rothschild accused him of seeking donations for the Conservative Party from a Russian oligarch.
Rothschild was a guest at the 40th birthday party that Freud, the PR guru, threw for his wife, Elisabeth, Daughter of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, in Corfu last year.
Rothschild married the model and friend of Kate Moss at a ceremony in Las Vagas after eloping. The marriage lasted less than three years, with a divorce being agreed in 1997.
The daughter of Jonathan Aitken, Ivanka Trump, the socialite and businesswoman daughter of Ivana and Donald Trump, and the actress Natalie Portman are among the women Rothschild has dated.
Princess Florence von Preussen
The great great granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor, is the latest women to be romantically linked to the financier.
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