The 101 heir to the Rockefeller fortune, David Rockefeller, just successfully completed his 7th open heart transplant after the last one failed earlier this week. This would mark more heart transplants than any other human being that’s ever existed.
David’s net worth is estimated at only $3 billion, a small number compared to the many new tech startup billionaires that make the exclusive forbes list. However he is the most wealthy billionaire of old money in the Forbes Billionaires club. David stared as an American banker who served as chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Corporation. He is the oldest living member of the Rockefeller family and family patriarch since July 2004. Rockefeller is also the only surviving child of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and the only surviving grandchild of John D. Rockefeller and Laura Spelman Rockefeller.
Rockefeller was born in New York City, New York, in 1915 and grew up in a nine-story house at 10 West 54th Street, the tallest private residence ever built in the city. The home contained rare, ancient, medieval and Renaissance treasures collected by his father—with some, such as the Unicorn Tapestries, held in an adjoining building at 12 West 54th Street. On the seventh floor was his mother’s private modern art gallery.
The house was subsequently donated by David’s father as a site for a sculpture garden that is now part of the Museum of Modern Art. He spent much time as a child at the family estate Kykuit, where, in his memoirs, he recalls visits by associates of his father, including General George C. Marshall, the adventurer Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd (whose Antarctic expeditions had been funded by the family), and the aviator Charles Lindbergh. Summer vacations were spent at the Eyrie, a 100-room house in Seal Harbor on the southeast shore of Mount Desert Island, in Maine. The house was demolished by the family in the early 1960s to make way for Museum of Modern Art. This was conceived and planned for by his mother Abby.
In 1946, Rockefeller joined the staff of the longtime family-associated Chase National Bank.
Rockefeller started as an assistant manager in the Foreign Department. There he financed international trade in a number of commodities, such as coffee, sugar and metals. This position also maintained relationships with more than 1,000 correspondent banks throughout the world. He served in other positions and became president in 1960. He was both chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan from 1969 to 1980 and remained chairman until 1981. He was also, as recently as 1980, the single largest individual shareholder of the bank, holding 1.7% of its shares.
In 1954, Rockefeller became chairman of the committee charged with deciding the location of the bank’s new headquarters. The following year his decision to erect the building in the Wall Street area was accepted; it was subsequently seen as a decision that directly revived the City’s downtown financial district. In 1960 the headquarters was completed under his direction at One Chase Manhattan Plaza, on Liberty Street in downtown Manhattan, directly across from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. At 60 stories, it was at that time the largest bank building in the world; it also had, five floors below ground, the largest bank vault then in existence.
In the 1960s, Rockefeller and other businessmen formed the Chase International Advisory Committee (IAC) which by 2005 consisted of twenty-eight prominent and businessmen from 19 nations throughout the world, many of whom were his personal friends. Rockefeller subsequently became chairman until he retired from that position on the IAC in 1999. After the Chase’s merger with J. P. Morgan, this committee was renamed theInternational Council, and contains prominent figures such as Henry Kissinger, Riley P. Bechtel (of the Bechtel Group), Andre Desmarais, George Shultz, Tony Blair, the current chairman. Historically, prominent figures on the IAC have included Gianni Agnelli (a longtime associate, who spent thirty years on the Committee), John Loudon (Chairman of Royal Dutch-Shell), C. Douglas Dillon, David Packard, Lee Kuan Yew and Henry Ford II..
Under his term as CEO, Chase spread internationally and became a central pillar in the world’s financial system; Chase has a global network of correspondent banks that has been estimated to number about 50,000, the largest of any bank in the world. In 1973, Chase established the first branch of an American bank in Moscow near the Kremlin, in the then Soviet Union. That year Rockefeller traveled to China, resulting in his bank becoming the National Bank of China’s first correspondent bank in the United States.
In November 1979, while chairman of the Chase Bank, Rockefeller became embroiled in an international incident when he and Henry Kissinger, along with John J. McCloy and Rockefeller aides, persuaded President Jimmy Carter through the United States Department of State to admit the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, into the United States for hospital treatment for lymphoma. This action directly precipitated what is known as the Iran hostage crisis and placed Rockefeller under intense media scrutiny (particularly from The New York Times) for the first time in his public life.
In a private capacity Rockefeller has met with and advised every American President since Eisenhower and has even at times served as an unofficial emissary on high-level diplomatic missions. Additionally, he serves as the only member of the Advisory Board for the Bilderberg Group.
As of September 2015, his net worth is estimated to be US $3.0 billion, ranking him among the 200 richest people in the world. Initially, most of his wealth had come to him via the family trusts that his father had set up, which were administered by Room 5600 and the Chase Bank.
Though David’s body continues to age, the ability to replace body parts that fail with young and youthful ones could hypothetically keep Mr. Rockefeller running for a very long time.