The patriarch of one of America’s most famous and influential families, billionaire philanthropist David Rockefeller, died Monday at age 101.
Rockefeller was the former head of Chase Manhattan Corporation, and reportedly gave away almost $2 billion during his lifetime.
According to spokesman Fraser Seitel, Rockefeller died in his sleep of congestive heart failure at his home in Pocantico Hills, New York.
As the son of John D. Rockefeller Jr, David was one of the few remaining links to the United States’ “gilded” era of robber barons. David’s father developed New York’s Rockefeller Center, and he was the last living grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and the genesis of the family dynasty.
He was also representative of an era when heads of major banks worked with the world’s most powerful politicians.
Rockefeller headed Chase from 1969 to 1981, during which time he cultivated such a strong network of close relationships with governments and multinational corporations that the bank was known to have had its own foreign policy.
In debtor countries, the Rockefeller name became synonymous with unpopular U.S. banking policies, and the left repudiated him for working with Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and the shah of Iran.
The right scorned him for advocating the opening of trade with China and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Trilateral Commission, a group Rockefeller founded in 1973 to promote relations between North America, Japan and Western Europe, became a target of the far-right and conspiracy theorists who claimed it was aiming to create a one-world government.
In 1979, Rockefeller was a key player in a controversial international incident when he and long-time friend Henry Kissinger worked to convince President Jimmy Carter to admit the shah of Iran to the United States for treatment of lymphoma, helping to foster the Iran hostage crisis.
Rockefeller maintained ties to the internationally famous throughout his life, exemplified by his 100,000-card Rolodex which is kept in its own room next to his office in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center.
In March 2017, Rockefeller’s fortune—investments in real estate, share of family trusts and other holdings—was estimated at $3.3 billion.
Rockefeller founded several international and philanthropic associations: the Americas Society, the Trilateral Commission, and the New York City Partnership to assist poor residents of the city.
Working every day into his 90s, Rockefeller remained a lifelong member of the moderate “Rockefeller Republicans” wing of the GOP. In 2006, he co-founded Republicans Who Care to support moderates in the party.
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