At his Vice Presidential confirmation hearings, Nelson A. Rockefeller was as solemn and serious as P. T. Barnum swearing his freak show denizens were the real McCoy when he told the assembled solons:
I hope that the myth or misconception about the extent of the family’s control over the economy of this country will be totally brought out and exposed and dissipated …There is not this network of control which is popularly conceived.
The Senators could not have been more polite. Nobody guffawed. The transcript does not indicate that they even tittered. After all, fools seldom get elected to the Senate these days. Nelson and David, as leaders of the Rockefeller Clan, are the nation’s undisputed economic kings. No politician with enough savvy to be elected dog catcher laughs at a king.
Guessing the magnitude of the Rockefeller financial empire has been a favorite indoor sport since the turn of the century. In a front-page story on September 29, 1916, the New York Times reported that family patriarch John D. Rockefeller’s oil holdings alone were worth $500 million, and that he was America’s first billionaire. Eight hours after the story appeared his oil shares had increased in value by a tidy $8 million. Not a bad return for a single day’s labor, even for a Rockefeller.
About this period, however, the picture of the family’s growing financial might becomes more murky. The Rockefellers began hiding their wealth from the public and the tax collector -in trusts and foundations. As reported in the Washington Post:
For two generations, the great fortune passed down by John D. has been fractionated and made more complex by increasing layers of trusts and closely held companies, where no public reports are required, none volunteered, and all inquiries politely rebuffed.
The Rockefellers invented a scheme, used by the super rich today, whereby the more money you appear to give away, the richer and more powerful you become. Through the help of captive politicians, guided by some bright boys in the family law offices, legislation was written and passed which would protect the Rockefellers and other elite super-rich from the repressive taxation they have foisted on everyone else.
The key to this system is giving up ownership but retaining control. For example, most people don’t believe they really own something unless they retain title to it in their own name. The Rockefellers know this is a big mistake. Often it is better to have your assets owned by a trust or a foundation-which you control-than to have them in your own name.
For example, when Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered Standard Oil broken up back in 1911, sly old John D. simply created some new foundations and gave his stock to them. The net effect was the same as if you took your wallet out of your right-hand pocket and put it in the left. In this case, however, Rockefeller not only managed to avoid income taxes, but also escaped the probate, estate and inheritance taxes which have ravaged the wealth of those not in the know.
So three generations of Rockefellers have been – giving away millions of dollars – giving much of it to themselves. For example, if a Rockefeller gives a million dollars worth of stock in the Titanic Oil Corporation to the Dogood Foundation, which the family controls, he is not really out one million bucks. All he has done is transfer title of the securities to an alter ego. Of course, the foundation may then give away some of the money, or, more likely, donate some of the stock’s future earnings to some allegedly worthwhile cause. But, as the few investigations by Congress into this devious field have shown, in the case of the Rockefellers such bequests somehow end up increasing the Rockefeller financial or political power.
The upshot is that, through the past six decades, the public has had no way ‘even to estimate Rockefeller wealth, let alone accurately measure the family’s power and influence. But we can make some logical extrapolations from the few facts that are available. We know that through the magic of compound interest (as they say down at your friendly savings and loan branch), one dollar invested at the modest rate of five % per annum will double in thirteen years. This means that if the Rockefellers were earning only five % per year (a return they would find laughable), that modest $1 billion fortune in 1916 would have grown to over billion today.
The late Stewart Alsop, a reporter who had excellent sources in the Eastern Liberal Establishment (a euphemism for the financial, political, academic and media Mafia controlled by the Rockefellers), used to scoff at the usually “accepted ” Fortune magazine estimate of the family’s fortune at between $1 and $2 billion.
“It would not be at all surprising ” Alsop concluded in his book:” Nixon and Rockefeller (published in 1960),”if all the Rockefeller family assets -all the Rockefeller – controlled money as well as the Rockefeller “owned money came to something like 10 billion dollars.
If Alsop is correct, the Rockefeller holdings would now be a rather comfortable nest egg of some $25 billion.
In view of the fact that the past fifteen years have produced much economic growth (as well, as much inflation), it could well be that $25 billion is a reasonable, even a conservative figure.
Of course the family has never admitted being worth even a sizable fraction of this amount. When originally queried by the Senate Committee, good old’ Nelson estimated his personal fortune at a paltry $33 million. After some very mild prodding by the Committee, this modest estimate was increased by 660 %.
The Vice Presidential hopeful eventually admitted to being worth a more respectable $218 million-a sum, incidentally, that is greater than the combined wealth of all 37 Presidents in this country’s history.
So great was public suspicion of the Rockefeller wealth that the family’s financial adviser, J. Richardson Dilworth, was invited to testify before the House judiciary Committee. Dilworth became the Rockefeller family’s key money manipulator in 1958. Prior to joining the Rockefellers he had been a partner in Kuhn, Loeb & Co., perhaps the most politically powerful international banking firm in the world. Kuhn, Loeb was, and still may be, a satellite of the immensely rich and powerful Rothschild family of Europe.
Historically, the Kuhn, Loeb name has been synonymous with financial success and political intrigue, dating back to participation through senior partner Jacob Schiff in bankrolling the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.* (See “Dark Forces”)
In the past, the Rockefellers have both competed with and cooperated with the Rothschilds. Dilworth’s leaving Kuhn, Loeb & Co. to take control of the Rockefeller family purse strings was considered significant by students of the international financial and political machinations of the super-rich.
Dilworth maintains an office designated as Rockefeller Family and Associates, occupying three entire floors at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Rockefeller Family and Associates is not a legal entity or corporation; it is simply a name to describe the organization which coordinates and manages the investments of the 84 descendants of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
With the well-oiled assurance of a successful mortician the urbane, sophisticated Dilworth laid to rest the committee’s concern over the family’s financial muscle. He used five charts, crammed with statistics, to dispel the notion that the family exercises inordinate power over the nation’s economy. Rocky’s critics found it difficult to dispute Dilworth’s bewildering collection of figures; at times they could hardly keep up with them. The whole performance was as confusing as an Eisenhower press conference, and probably as deliberate. As one observer commented:
…. the talk of convertible stocks, coupons and fiduciary obligations and the fact the vast holdings of The Rockefeller Foundation and other family-collected funds were not included in Dilworth’s presentation left most members little more enlightened than they had been.
According to Dilworth, the 84 living Rockefellers are worth a mere $1,033,988,000. (Presumably he rounded off the figures to the nearest thousand dollars.) The bulk of the assets disclosed by Dilworth were held in two trusts, one established by John D. Jr. in 1934 for his children and one set up in 1952 for his grandchildren.
But according to many sources, the Rockefellers have as many as 200 trusts and foundations, and it is possible they have hundreds, even thousands more. Why bother with so many? For one very simple reason: So that assets can be moved, merged, and manipulated so smoothly and so quickly that the public-and just as important, the tax experts from the Treasury Department-have no way of knowing just how much money is where.
Suppose you had three buckets, one empty, two filled with water. Is there any way you could pour water from one bucket to another so quickly an observer could not tell how much water you had?
But suppose, instead, you had five thousand buckets. And a hundred persons to help pour. And you were allowed to keep all but a few buckets and a few pourers hidden behind a high wall. Would your chances be better to keep your -liquid assets – secret? So it is with the Rockefellers. All trusts are not equal. Only a handful of attorneys in the country know how to establish the type of trusts the Rockefellers have. These specialized trusts are most emphatically not the sort your friendly local solicitor can create for you. They not only can eliminate probate, cut inheritance taxes, and reduce income taxes; unlike corporations, they can achieve almost total privacy.
Theoretically, trustees can, within the privacy of their directors’ meetings, create more and more trusts ad infinitum With a little effort, taxes disappear. With more effort, even the value of the holdings can be completely hidden.
This explains why the Rockefellers use so many trusts. The fact is that we really don’t know how many trusts the family has established. lt may be thousands, or tens of thousands. Remember Nelson’s explanation for the embarrassing fact that he did not pay any income tax in 1970-his trust fund managers had done a lot of shifting of investments in 1969. You can bet they moved their assets to accomplish this!
In testifying before the Judiciary Committee, Dilworth did not discuss the family’s holdings by individuals, but presented them as a single package. Dilworth said he had received “unanimous permission” from the Rockefeller family to make public the total figures of their holdings. “This in itself has been a unique experience, since it runs so completely against the grain of what we in the office consider to be one of our major responsibilities- the preservation of the separate identity and highly personal treatment of each account,” he said. “Like other Americans, they value highly their right of personal privacy.”
More importantly, the privacy within the trusts can conceal whatever assets the Rockefellers decided not to make public. If the family had chosen to open up the minutes of its trustees’ meetings to Congressional investigators, we might have some idea of the true financial status of the family. No such suggestion was even whispered. We really have only the Rockefellers’ word for the amount of wealth they control, and they obviously have a vested interest in minimizing its size.
How about assets hidden in foreign countries? Are there Swiss bank accounts? Rocky says no, but he could be telling the literal truth, yet have foreign accounts held by trusts or other nominees, or securities “in street name (that is, in the name of a brokerage firm such as Merrill Lynch). Or assets can be held in a custodial account of a bank, such as (for example) Chase Manhattan.
All that we know for sure is the first time Rocky was asked about his wealth he swore it was a paltry $33 million; later he admitted the figure was six (6) times higher. A slight miscalculation which anyone might make.
We are supposed to swallow the propaganda that the Rockefellers are merely middle-class millionaires, not even in the, same financial ball park as Howard Hughes or those Texas wheeler-dealers. But, “Hideout Howard” and the Dallas money crowd are relative Johnny-Come-Latelys to the world of high finance. The Rockefellers have been refining oil for over a century and running banks for 75 -years. Although it cannot be proven because the evidence is hidden, few sophisticates swallow Dilworth’s $1 billion figure-which does not even include any personal residential property, jewelry or other personal belongings; nor does it include Nelson’s art collection, which he has valued (conservatively, we must assume) at $35 million.
Nor are the Rockefeller homesteads your basic tract bungalows. The main homes of the clan are located at Pocantico Hills in New York. Established 45 years ago by old John D., the land alone was worth $50 million in 1930. Their value today defies estimate. When opened to the press for the first time in 1959, at the time of the marriage of Nelson’s son Steven, the estate, with its 70 miles of private roads, was said to be 4,180 acres in size. Earlier reports claimed 7,500 acres. In 1929 there were 75 buildings occupied by the Rockefellers and their attendants; over 100 families lived on the estate. One addition has been a $4.5 million underground archives to store family records. One wag has described the palatial Pocantico Hills as the kind of place God would have built if he had had the money.
No expense was spared by the family to remove minor blemishes on their pastoral paradise.
The senior Rockefeller gave the New York Central Railroad $700,000 to move its tracks, and $1.5 million to a small college to shove off.
Among the other chateaux owned by Nelson is the enormous Monte Sacro Ranch in Venezuela, his coffee plantation in Ecuador (the one where Juan Valdez waits for the perfect day to pick the beans), his several farms in Brazil, his 32-room Fifth Avenue duplex in New York City, the mansion in Washington, D. C., the little hideaway at Seal Harbor, Maine, etc., etc., etc.*
In addition, at last count the Rockefellers owned seven huge ranches. Earlier this year 1975, Nelson bought 18,000 empty Texas acres for -outdoor recreation.
It is doubtful if any of the Rockefeller women will ever have to spend the night at the YWCA. The four of them have about 100 residences to choose from, including John D. III’s spacious Beekman Place apartment in Manhattan, Laurance’s sumptuous resorts in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, Nelson’s Venezuela Finca, (large enough to swallow the entire city of New York), and David’s Caribbean home.
Needless to say, it takes an army of underlings to operate these elegant pads. There are 500 full-time domestics, gardeners, guards and chauffeurs at Pocantico Hills alone, 45 at the family’s Seal Harbor, Maine, retreat, and 15 in Nelson’s Fifth Avenue apartment. All told, it has been estimated the Rockefeller women have at their beck and call about 2,500 servants.
Because the Rockefellers are forever on the wing-in their private jet fleets-each residence is permanently staffed, and nightly the sheets are turned down. One never knows when the boss might pop in.
Of the corporate holdings described by Dilworth, the largest, of course, is Exxon, the new name for Standard Oil of New Jersey, one of the companies formed when John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was ordered to de-monopolize the Standard Oil Company. The stock directly owned by the family (not counting that held by such family controlled entities as banks and foundations ) amounts to $156,7 millions. Number two on Dilwoth’s list is Rockfeller mere $98 million. Anyone who accepts this estimate of the Center’s worth is probably negotiating to swap his life time savings for sole proprietorship in the Brooklyn Bridge. The Los Angeles Times observed on September 30, 1974 :
· The Congressional hearings revealed that two houses in Washington “ostensibly owned by a Rockefeller attorney” actually belong to Nelson.
Nobody but the stockholders (the four surviving Rockefeller brothers-Nelson, John D.III, David and Laurance – their sister, Abby, and the heirs of their brother Winthrop, who died in 1973, and a handful of Wall Street bankers) know its true value, but the educated guess of New York’s real estate crowd is that Rockefeller Center, land and buildings, is worth $1 billion.
Next in line in the family portfolio is $85-million worth of stock in Standard of California, followed by $72.6 million worth of IBM. Companies in which the family holds $10 million or more in stock include Chase Manhattan Bank, Mobil Oil Corp., Eastman Kodak, General Electric, Texas Instruments, and Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. Altogether the Rockefellers own a significant portion of some 50 major American companies.
So extensive are the family’s holdings in securities that the Dilworth operation spreads over three entire floors at Rockefeller Center, and requires 154 full-time employees to manage the security portfolios. Working under Dilworth’s supervision are fifteen top financial experts, who also double and triple in brass by serving on the boards of directors of nearly 100 corporations with combined assets of some $70 billion.
When testifying before the judiciary Committee, Dilworth’s main objective was to fortify Nelson’s statement that his family’s reputed financial power was a – myth – concocted by evildoers. “If you’re thinking of colossal economic power, it doesn’t exist. We have investments, but not control,” claimed Rocky.
“It should be stressed that both the family members and their investment advisers are totally uninterested in controlling anything,” parroted Dilworth. “The family members are simply investors. The aim and hope of the advisers is over time to achieve a reasonable total return for our clients. “So seriously was the whole performance taken that not even a wink could be, detected in the hearing room, much less a discreet nudge under the table.
Dilworth maintained that members of the family do not coordinate their investments. Their sharply differing views on investments, social and environmental policies, Dilworth claimed, have prevented them from ever voting their stock in unison.”There is no grand design or overall pattern,” the Rockefeller hireling assured the committee.
Dilworth went on to say that the last time the family interfered in the management of a company was in 1928 when John D. Sr. and Jr. forced Standard Oil Company (Indiana) to remove a chief executive. Such intervention now, purred Dilworth, is -totally foreign to this family. In the 17 years I’ve been on this job, I’ve never seen this family try to push people around.”
The Wall Street Journal sprang to the defense of the family on September 25, 1974:
… “while Mr. Rockefeller is a bit modest about his economic clout, it is true that there are no individuals left in this society who are wealthy enough to alone substantially influence economic events. The wealth accumulated by John D. and the other tycoons of his era is diffused through a vast economy, controlled by foundations, trusts and the managers of large broadly based corporations.
Power is diffused along with it”
In April 1958, when it was reported that J. Richardson Dilworth, the man with the most snobbish “sounding name since Junius Pierpont Morgan or Jackie Gleason’s immortal Reginald van Gleason, was appointed to his present position, the New York Times explained that the organization “manages and supervises” the Rockefeller family investments. The phrase “manages and supervises” suggests a coordinated effort at directing family finances. If the Rockefellers were not interested in maximizing their economic leverage, it would seem logical that each would pursue his own interests separately and retain his or her own battery of experts.
Dilworth makes it sound as if the family has widely divergent views on social, economic and political questions. Yet we have not been able to find a single significant occasion when the four sons and daughter of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. differed.*
And is it not curious that no member of the Judiciary Committee chose to grill Mr. Dilworth about the alleged disagreements which prevent the family from acting in financial unison? The New Yorker of January 16, 1965,tells us that the brothers and sister Abby “get together two or three times a year to discuss matters of interest to all of them.”The purpose of the conferences is to “collide and coalesce,” as one of their senior advisers described it.
Charles B. Smith, a top Dilworth, lieutenant, was a bit more forthright than his boss: “Our goal, like everybody else’s, is to make wads and wads of money for the Rockefeller family.” The Rockefeller family likes money. But, once you have achieved the ultimate of opulence in your standard of living (and the Rockefellers reached that plateau decades ago), making money for its own sake becomes a fairly academic exercise.
Most people relax after they have reached the point of economic comfort and security. But, for some individuals, the ultimate ego trip has been the pursuit of power. In bygone days the rare individual with a manic desire for power seized a throne, or led conquering armies. Now that is all passé. Today, more worlds are conquered in board rooms than on battle fields. And, as we shall see, what happens on battle fields is often the result of decisions made in board rooms.
The Rockefeller Files Part II