Banker, philanthropist, former chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank David Rockefeller died on Monday morning at the age of 101. David’s death was confirmed by Rockefeller family spokesperson Fraser P.Seitel. According to the New York Times, Rockefeller died of congestive heart failure.
From June of 2004 until his death today, David Rockefeller was the patriarch of the Rockefeller family. He was also the only surviving child of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, as well as the last surviving grandchild of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller and Laura Spelman Rockefeller. His grandfather was the first billionaire in the history of the United States, and through the 19th and 20th centuries, the family remained one of the richest and powerful entities in the U.S.
David Rockefeller was most famous for his stint with Chase Manhattan Bank, which was known in his time as the Rockefeller Bank. While the family did not own more than 5 percent of Chase Manhattan at any time, he was considered one of the most influential persons to have ever led the bank and played a key role in expanding Chase Manhattan’s operations internationally. Widely considered a very influential businessman, he was also known for being a vocal advocate of the economic interests of the United States. His family was also known to hold a significant say in the foreign policy of the U.S.
David Rockefeller traveled well into his 90s, and even at that age, he was considered a very powerful marketing influence, having made several trips to Europe. Back in the 1970s, he held meetings with world leaders — including Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt, Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, and Zhou Enlai — and eventually managed to establish the operations of Chase Manhattan Bank in these countries.
In one of his interviews, David is known to have quipped, “Few people in this country have met as many leaders as I have.”
Due to his extensive traveling, David also faced criticism from several quarters, with some blaming him for neglecting his responsibilities at Chase Manhattan. He was also blamed for Chase Manhattan’s decline and the rise of its chief rival, Citibank.
In 1981, John J. McCloy, a former Chase chairman said the following about David.
“In my judgment, he will not go down in history as a great banker. He will go down as a real personality, as a distinguished and loyal member of the community.”
David’s prominence in business circles rose after the death of his elder brother Nelson Rockefeller’s death in 1979. None of his other family members since have attained or even aspired to attain the stature David managed. A notable exception, however, would be Jay Rockefeller, a great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, who became the governor and United States senator from West Virginia.
In a 1995 interview, Warren T. Lindquist, a friend of David, claimed that no one would be able to replace David Rockefeller.
“No one can step into his shoes. Not because they aren’t good, smart, talented people, but because it’s just a different world.”
David Rockefeller was born on June 12, 1915, and was the youngest of six children. Apart from Nelson Rockefeller, his other siblings were Abby Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller III, Laurance Rockefeller, and Winthrop Rockefeller. He lived at the Rockefeller mansion located at 10 West 54th Street, which was then the largest private residence in New York.
David married Margaret McGrath, known as Peggy, in 1940. The couple were dating after the two met at a dance seven years earlier. Margaret passed away in 1996 at the age of 80. The couple had six children: David Jr., Abby, Neva, Margaret, Richard, and Eileen. David began his career as a banker in 1946, starting off as an assistant manager with the Chase National Bank. This bank would later merge with Bank of Manhattan to become Chase Manhattan in 1955. David’s rise in the banking industry was very quick. He was the president of Chase Manhattan by 1961 and eventually replaced co-chief executive George Champion in 1961.
In 2002, David Rockefeller published a book, Memoirs, at the age of 87.
[Featured Image by Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images]