Billionaire David Rockefeller, former head of Chase Manhattan Corp and patriarch of one of the most famous and influential American families, died on Monday, a family spokesman said. He was 101. Rockefeller, who reportedly gave away nearly $2 billion in his lifetime, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure at his home in Pocantico Hills, New York, spokesman Fraser Seitel said in a statement.
The Rockefeller name came to symbolize unpopular U.S. banking policies in debtor countries, and Rockefeller was scorned on the left for working with Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and the shah of Iran.
Born in Manhattan as the youngest of six siblings, Rockefeller spent his childhood in New York City and at the family’s estates, and recalled meeting such luminaries as Charles Lindbergh, Admiral Richard Byrd and Sigmund Freud. Rockefeller graduated from Harvard in 1936 and received a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago in 1940.
With the passing of his elder siblings, Rockefeller was at the head of a sprawling network of family interests, both business and philanthropic, that range from environmental conservation to the arts. He parted company with some of his fellow capitalists on income taxes, calling it unseemly to earn $1 million and then find ways to avoid paying taxes on it. He didn’t say how much he paid in taxes and never spoke publicly about his personal worth. In 2015, Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $3 billion.
Rockefeller was estimated to have met more than 200 rulers in more than 100 countries during his lifetime, and often was treated as if he were a visiting head of state. He also headed what is now JPMorgan Chase bank. To mark his 100th birthday in 2015, he gave 1,000 acres of land next to a national park to Maine.
Rockefeller often spoke about the importance of American capitalism, which he said “brought more benefits to more people than any other system in any part of the world at any time in history.”
“The problem is to see that the system is run as efficiently and as honestly as it can be,” he added.
Rockefeller and his wife, the former Margaret McGrath, married in 1940 and had six children — David Jr., Richard, Abby, Neva, Margaret and Eileen. His wife, an active conservationist, died in 1996.