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Lord Victor Rothschild, 79; Once Linked to Spy Scandal

March 22, 1990|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — Lord Victor Rothschild, millionaire banker and a former British intelligence agent who was once briefly linked to one of Britain's most controversial spy scandals, has died, his wife said Wednesday.

Lady Rothschild said in a statement that her husband died Tuesday at age 79. She did not disclose the cause of death or other details.

Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild was born into the 200-year-old family descended from German coin collectors who founded a banking dynasty.

He was educated at Harrow and at Trinity College in Cambridge as a biophysicist.

He succeeded his uncle as the fourth Baron Rothschild in 1937 and took his seat in the House of Lords as a member of the Labor Party.

At Cambridge in the 1930s he had joined an exclusive debating society known as the Apostles, which included Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt, who were later exposed as agents for the Soviet Union.

In 1986 some parliamentarians called for investigations into whether Rothschild had also been a Soviet spy. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dismissed the speculation, and Rothschild strongly denied the allegations.

At the start of World War II, Rothschild joined British military intelligence. In 1944 he was awarded the George Medal after defusing German explosives hidden in a case of onions in a ship's hold.

Stylish even while endangered, he carried out the operation with a set of jeweler's screwdrivers given to him by Cartier.

Rothschild had spent 20 years as an executive with Shell Oil Co. He took that job after just two months working in the family bank, a job he said he found dull. But he remained a director of Rothschild and Sons and was chairman from 1975-76.

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