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FB Roundup: Lord Jacob Rothschild, Mohsin Issa, Zong Qinghou

FB Roundup: Lord Jacob Rothschild, Mohsin Issa, Zong Qinghou
In this week’s FB Roundup, tributes are paid to British banking legend Lord Jacob Rothschild; Mohsin Issa steps back from his family business; and self-made Chinese billionaire Zong Qinghou dies aged 79.
By Glen Ferris
Lord Jacob Rothschild
Lord Jacob Rothschild

Tributes paid to British banking legend Lord Jacob Rothschild
Lord Jacob Rothschild, the British peer, investment banker and member of the famed Rothschild banking family, has died at the age of 87. 

“Our father Jacob was a towering presence in many peoples’ lives — a superbly accomplished financier, a champion of the arts and culture, a devoted public servant, a passionate supporter of charitable causes in Israel and Jewish culture, a keen environmentalist and much-loved friend, father and grandfather,” his family said in a statement.

The fourth Baron Rothschild famously left his family’s banking dynasty to start his own company, later becoming a powerful figure in the City of London, as well as a patron of the arts and a philanthropist.

From 1963, Rothschild worked at the family bank N M Rothschild & Sons in London, before resigning in 1980 due to a family dispute. According to The Telegraph “The chairmanship of the bank had passed from his father, who had chosen to follow a scientific career and had lost control of the majority voting shares, to his distant cousin Sir Evelyn Robert de Rothschild.”

Having sold his minority stake in the bank, Jacob Rothschild took independent control of Rothschild Investment Trust, now known as RIT Capital Partners and one of the UK’s largest investment trusts.

Along with RIT, he co-founded the asset manager St. James’s Place and was once part of a $21 billion aborted hostile takeover bid for British American Tobacco.

In addition to his business endeavours, Rothschild was also one of the UK’s most prominent philanthropists, having chaired the boards of the National Gallery and the National Heritage Lottery Fund. He was also a noted art collector, spearheading the restoration of Spencer House in London and 19th-Century country house Waddesdon Manor. 

Rothschild, who stepped down as RIT’s chairman in 2019, is survived by his four children — The Hon. Hannah Mary Rothschild Brookfield, The Hon. Beth Matilda Rothschild Tomassini, The Hon. Emily Magda Rothschild Freeman-Attwood, The Fifth Baron Rothschild Nathaniel Philip Victor James Rothschild — and grandchildren. His wife, Lady Serena Rothschild passed away in 2019.

Mohsin Issa
Mohsin Issa

Mohsin Issa to step back from family business 
Mohsin Issa, one half of the billionaire sibling duo who own a majority stake in UK supermarket giant Asda, along with petrol station forecourt businesses across the UK and Europe, has confirmed he will be stepping back from the day-to-day running of the family firm.

According to BBC report, Issa said he was carrying out a “’reset’ at the grocer before appointing a chief executive. The businessman said he was ‘here for the long haul,’ despite the supermarket navigating a £5 billion debt pile.”

Along with his brother Zuber Issa, Mohsin started out with a single petrol station in Bury, Greater Manchester, in 2001. The Issas have since grown their global empire to include brands such as Euro Garages, Cooplands Bakery and Leon, as well as fast food chain KFC’s biggest franchise and a close working relationship with the likes of UK bakery chain Greggs, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme and Cinnabon, with more than 6,600 sites and 50,000 employees around the world. The brothers bought Asda for £6.8 billion in February 2021 and the brothers’ EG Group have been growing their portfolio ever since with the purchase of Co-Op petrol stations and an attempted £8 billion takeover of the American sandwich retailer Subway.

In an interview with the BBC, Mohsin said of rumours that his relationship with Zuber was strained: “We talk to each other probably two or three times a day. We’ve been very, very privileged. We have been on a journey, and we have got a long way still to go.”

Last month, it was reported that Zuber Issa was mulling a sale of his 22.5 per cent stake in the grocery giant.

Zong Qinghou
Zong Qinghou

Self-made billionaire Zong Qinghou dies at 79
Zong Qinghou, the Chinese billionaire businessman who was the founder, chairman and chief executive office of the Hangzhou Wahaha Group, China’s leading beverage company, has passed away at the age of 79.

The self-made billionaire was once China’s richest man following a well-publicised battle for control of the Hangzhou Wahaha Group from French multinational Groupe Danone.

Born in 1945 into a poor family in Zhejiang, he had little formal education. Having worked menial jobs for much of his early life, Zong, together with two retired schoolteachers, borrowed CNY 140,000 to start producing milk drinks for distribution.

With an approach to work that Forbes described as ‘autocratic’ and ‘workaholic’, he built Wahaha into the largest beverage manufacturer in the People’s Republic of China.

Wahaha later entered into a joint venture with Groupe Danone, which involved “the inward investment of US $70 million in five joint venture companies in exchange of 51% Groupe Danone ownership in each company” (according to the South China Morning Post). In 2007, Danone had accused Wahaha of “secretly operating a set of parallel companies that mirrored the joint venture’s operations with virtually identical products and siphoned off as much as $100 million from the partnership.” 

Danone and Wahaha later reached a settlement and dissolved their partnership and, with 80% control of Wahaha, Zong became China’s richest man by 2012 with a personal fortune of $20.1 billion (according to Forbes).

“For all his wealth and stature,” reported Bloomberg. “Zong lived frugally. He dressed simply and wouldn’t buy new shoes until the pair he was wearing had worn out. Longtime Wahaha spokesman Shan Qining liked to tell a story of salespeople at a yacht exhibition ignoring Zong and being told only afterward that they had snubbed one of China’s richest men.

“What few hints there were of his fortune included a taste for Davidoff cigarettes and a $48,000 Vacheron Constantin watch he bought to replace a Rolex — because he had heard that Rolexes were favored by the ‘newly rich.’ He didn’t consider himself one of them, as his fortune was made “one yuan at a time.”

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