Heir to world-famous banking dynasty found hanged by cleaner in Paris hotel room

AMSCHEL ROTHSCHILD, heir apparent to one of the world's most famous banking dynasties, committed suicide, merchant bank N.M Rothschild & Sons confirmed tonight.

The announcement followed a report earlier today that the body of the 41-year-old banker was found by a cleaner in the luxury Hotel Bristol in central Paris on Monday.

His widow, Anita Rothschild, said in a statement: ``We are completely shocked and devastated. Amschel's death was totally unexpected.

``We shall not be saying any more and would ask that everyone will respect the grief and deep sadness of our three young children and myself.''

It is understood that the banker was found hanged in his hotel room while on a visit to the French capital on business.

Mr Rothschild was chairman of Rothschild Asset Management and had been tipped to succeed his cousin Sir Evelyn Rothschild, 64, as chairman of the merchant bank.

Banker Mr Rothschild entered the family business in 1988 despite having previously shown little interest in the City.

He had a reputation within the City as a reluctant banker who would have been happier on his farm near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

However he made steady, quiet progress through the bank despite a bitter split between his half-brother, the present Lord Rothschild, and Sir Evelyn.

In 1995 he joined the board of Sun Alliance, the insurance company which is merging with Royal Insurance. He would not have joined the board of the new company, Royal Sun Alliance, under the merger plans.

Mr Rothschild was the second son of Lord Victor Rothschild, the eminent scientist and wartime MI5 agent.

He was educated at The Leys school, Cambridge, and the City University, London, and retained an interest in motorsport throughout his life.

One of the first mentions he received in the national press was in 1969 when, aged 13, he competed in his first junior motorcycle scramble.

In 1981 Mr Rothschild married Anita Guinness, younger sister of Sabrina Guinness, a former girlfriend of the Prince of Wales. The couple had three children, a son and two daughters.

Earlier today Lord Rothschild, chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said he was very sad at the news of his half-brother's death.

Speaking after a news conference about the Thomas a Becket casket being saved for the nation, he said: ``I have nothing to say except of course that I am very sad.''

Derek Wilson, author of Rothschild: A Story of Wealth and Power, said Amschel Rothschild was a reluctant banker.

``One has to realise the kind of pressure that someone who belongs to a family with that much money and that much in the public eye comes under.

``Some members thrive on it and other don't. Some want to be quiet people but as a Rothschild you can never be that,'' he said.

Mr Rothschild oversaw a recovery in the fortunes of Rothschild Asset Management although the Rothschild bank as a whole has been under pressure with profits almost static at #16.5m in 1994/95 compared with a #132m made by Schroders.

City commentators had already begun to downgrade Amschel's prospects of inheriting the mantle as leader of the banking empire, a role now likely to pass to David de Rothschild in a move that would unite the French and British side of the families

Other factors that might have contributed to the underlying pressure were the death of his father, followed by that of his mother, and the split between Amschel's half-brother Lord Rothschild and his cousin Sir Evelyn.

``The death of his mother a few months ago must have been a pretty traumatic experience for him,'' said Mr Wilson.

Amschel would not have been the first family member to have taken his own life. His grandfather Charles committed suicide in 1923 while suffering the effects of the brain illness encephalitis.