Lafite renovator Elie de Rothschild dies

  • Tuesday 7 August 2007

Baron Elie de Rothschild, the man credited with overseeing the post war revival of Chateau Lafite, has died aged 90.

Elie de Rothschild ran the Bordeaux first growth from 1946 to 1974, when current owner Eric de Rothschild took over from his uncle.

Elie Robert de Rothschild was born on 29 May 1917 to Baron Robert de Rothschild and his wife Nelly. One of four children, he was bought up by English nannies in Paris and Chantilly.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Elie and his brother Alain rode to the front with their cavalry regiment, the 11th Cuirassiers. Both were captured by German forces during the fall of France in 1940.

After unsuccessfully attempting an escape from Nienburg Prisoner of War (PoW) camp, he was sent to the infamous Colditz castle, where he married childhood sweetheart Liliane Fould-Springer by proxy. He was subsequently moved to Lubeck PoW camp where he was reunited with his brother.

After the war, Elie, Alain and their cousin Guy began to rebuild the family banking business, Rothschild Freres, and their investment concern the Compagnie du Nord.

In 1946, one year after the acclaimed ’45 vintage, Elie also took over at Chateau Lafite, overseeing its restoration, renovation and administrative restructuring after years of neglect. He also decided to oppose his cousin, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, in his attempt to acquire first growth status for neighbouring estate Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Nowadays dubbed a ‘healthy rivalry’ by the Lafite website, the two cousins barely spoke to each other during the period.

Among many innovations, Elie introduced dairy cows to the property in the 50s in order to ready access to organic fertiliser. He was also one of the founding members of the Bordeaux wine guild, the Commanderie du Bontemps du Medoc, in 1950.

After 28 years running Chateau Lafite, Elie handed over to his nephew Eric de Rothschild.

Elie de Rothschild died yesterday at his hunting lodge in the Austrian alps, he was 90 years old. He and Liliane, who died in 2003, had a son and two daughters.

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