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April 4, 2012 9:03 pm
The Rothschild family plans to secure “long-term control” over its international banking empire by merging its French and British assets into a single entity and implementing a new form of governance that provides immunity from hostile takeover.
The historic reorganisation will reunite the shareholdings of the French and English sides of the family into a single company, listed in Paris.
The bank has made a series of incremental changes in recent years in an attempt to simplify its structure. But people close to the family said it now wanted a “big bang” to make its global operations more efficient. The changes will also “significantly enhance” its capital position ahead of the implementation of the stricter Basel III regulatory requirements.
David de Rothschild, who will be chairman of the merged group, said that the changes would “allow the bank to better meet the requirements of globalisation in general and in our competitive environment in particular, while ensuring my family’s control over the long term”.
The bank said the family’s involvement was the “cornerstone of our culture and competitive positioning”. Mr de Rothschild is the great-great-great-grandson of Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of the dynasty in Frankfurt, and is also descended from his son Baron James de Rothschild, who established a bank in Paris in 1812.
The British branch of the dynasty traces its roots to 1798, when another of Mayer’s sons, 21-year-old Nathan Mayer Rothschild, arrived in England from Germany to start a textile business. With a Channel blockade making exports difficult, Nathan turned to London’s financial markets to make his fortune.
Two years ago Rothschild appointed a non-family member, Nigel Higgins, as chief executive for the first time in its 213-year history.
Mr Higgins will be joint chief executive of the merged entity, alongside Olivier Pécoux, head of Paris Orléans, a listed French group that acts as a holding vehicle for the Rothschild Group.
Paris Orléans, which has a market value of €540m, will be the vehicle for bringing together the British and French entities. Rothschild & Cie Banque, the holding company for the French business, will transfer its shares into Paris Orléans. Rothschild Continuation Holdings, a Swiss company which owns the group’s other international subsidiaries, including the UK’s NM Rothschild, will do the same. The family will also implement a limited partnership structure that acts as a safeguard against takeovers, similar to ones used by Hermès, the luxury goods group, and tyremaker Michelin.
Because of the strengthening of its control, the Rothschild family is offering to buy out minority shareholders in Paris Orléans, who own about 30 per cent of the stock. They are offering €17 a share, compared with a €16.31 closing price on Wednesday, though hope that the minority interests will decide to stay as investors on Wednesday. Allianz, a key shareholder, said it would remain a long-term investor.
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