Austerity? Not for Nat Rothschild and his friends

The financier is mixing business and pleasure with a £1m birthday celebration. By Andy McSmith

Sunday 18 September 2011 17:06
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This week, it was Monte Carlo. Next week, Montenegro. Nat Rothschild, who has one of the best financial brains in a family renowned for business acumen, will be 40 next Tuesday, and intends to make this a weekend to remember.

The financier is rumoured to be splashing out £1m on a birthday bash. That is small change for a man whose personal wealth is reckoned to be about a thousand times that amount. And the little state of Montenegro is understandably delighted to be chosen as the venue.

Montenegro is a staggeringly beautiful mountain statelet on the coast of the Adriatic, only just more than half the size of Wales, with a population of 660,000, slightly more than that of Glasgow. It has been an independent state only since 2006, when its people voted in a referendum to sever their union with Serbia. It is probably best known to the British public as the supposed setting of the film Casino Royale, though most of it was actually shot in the Czech Republic.

Uniquely for a sovereign state, Montenegro has no currency. All transactions are conducted in euros, though it is not in the EU or the eurozone. This peculiarity has made it a magnet for Russian oligarchs, and for people who want to disguise the source of their wealth, such as Irish drug barons.

It is also open for those with legitimate business interests, including Nat Rothschild, who will be combining business with pleasure by flying his guests in to see for themselves the attractions of the Bay of Kotor, one of Europe's finest natural harbours. Mr Rothschild and his main business partner, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, have sunk a lot of money into the fresh concrete that has been laid on the water's edge in Kotor Bay.

The British media will obviously focus its attention on who is or is not a guest at the Rothschild bash, because the only social event of the summer to match this one was last week's wedding of Prince Albert of Monaco to the former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock.

Eager to whet everyone's curiosity, Porto Montenegro's sales and marketing director, Colin Kingsmill, has told journalists that invitations have gone to "the ritziest, wealthiest, and most photogenic people on earth".

It will be a glitzy occasion because Nat Rothschild has a lot of famous names in his contacts book. He was a contemporary of George Osborne at Oxford University, where they were both in the Bullingdon Club together, five years after David Cameron and Boris Johnson. It was Mr Rothschild who brought Mr Osborne and Peter Mandelson together on Oleg Deripaska's yacht, in the summer of 2008, setting off an entertaining political furore when Mr Osborne revealed what Lord Mandelson had said in private about Gordon Brown.

When Mr Rothschild threw a party in New York in 2008, the principal guest was Saif al-Gaddafi, son of the Libyan dictator, but no one expects him to join the party in Montenegro.

It can be assumed, though, that Nat Rothschild's parents will be there. His father, Jacob, the fourth Baron Rothschild, is an investment banker and philanthropist, and his mother, Serena, is a racehorse owner who set a world record in 2004 by paying 4.6 million guineas (£4.7m) for the racehorse Magical Romance.

His social and business circles also include the oligarch Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, the former head of BP Tony Hayward, the American art dealer Larry Gagosian, Roland Rudd, co-founder of the Finsbury financial PR group, and many more.

While others of us may be nervously checking our bank statements and cutting down our overheads in these austere days, there are people in the world inhabited by Nat Rothschild with worries of a different order, including the shortage of parking spaces for exceptionally large yachts. The marinas of southern France and Italy were designed a generation ago, when a yacht longer than about 100ft was pretty rare even in a millionaires' playground. The Lady Ghislaine, the yacht off which the crooked tycoon Robert Maxwell fell to his death in 1991, was an exception, at 180ft, but Maxwell liked to have the biggest and best of everything, even if it meant paying for it with other people's pensions.

These days, the Lady Ghislaine is nowhere near big enough to feature on the list of the top 100 privately owned yachts. A 240ft super-gin palace would get in at the bottom of that chart, while at No 1 there is Roman Abramovich's Eclipse, which is three times the length of Maxwell's.

As more of these superyachts came off the production lines, Europe's billionaires were in danger of having to wander the Mediterranean with nowhere to dock until a group of entrepreneurs decided to create Porto Montenegro, in the Bay of Kotor, which, when it is complete in five or six years, will include a luxury hotel, a casino, 700 apartments, and 650 yacht berths.

After Nat Rothschild's guests have quaffed his champagne and sung a chorus of "Happy Birthday" they will get a chance to look around. And that can only be good for business.

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