C Douglas Dillon, a member of the family that has owned Château Haut-Brion since 1935, has died in Manhattan at the age of 93.
Dillon served as ambassador to France under President Eisenhower in the 1950s, and was a highly successful Wall Street financier. He was the son of Clarence Dillon, who gave his name to Domaine Clarence Dillon, which today embraces the prestigious Bordeaux châteaux La Mission Haut-Brion, La Tour Haut-Brion and Laville Haut-Brion as well as the First Growth Haut-Brion.
Dillon’s daughter from his first marriage, Joan, Duchesse de Mouchy, has been president of Domaine Clarence Dillon since 1974. Her son, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, is vice-president.
In all, seven of the Domaine’s board are either members of the Dillon family or related to it. The Prince is also an administrator at Chateau Haut-Brion, where his father Philippe de Noailles, Duc de Mouchy, is a managing director.
Clarence Dillon, an international banker and francophile, purchased Haut-Brion for the equivalent of €350,678 (US$369,300 at the current exchange rate) in 1935 – because it was his favourite wine, he declared. With the family’s investment, the entire property, which had slid into disrepair, was reborn. He died, aged 96, in 1979.
A lifelong Republican, Douglas Dillon was chosen by President John F Kennedy, a Democrat, to be secretary of the Treasury. He kept the post until 1965 under Lyndon B Johnson, who became president after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
Douglas Dillon was always acutely conscious that his family had acquired a French national treasure, and although primarily immersed in the banking house Dillon, Read & Company saw himself as a missionary for the wine. He attended formal Haut-Brion dinners in New York whenever he could.
He was also a passionate collector of 18th and 19th century French paintings and served as president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York