WOW: Nathaniel Rothschild

This week’s Winery Owner of the Week [WOW] is Nathaniel Rothschild (below) whose stake in French First Growth and perennial Chinese favourite Château Lafite was valued at £400m in 2011 by the Sunday Times in their annual Rich List briefing for tax inspectors, kidnappers and the envious. Nat is in the news a lot these days as his battle against the beastly Bakries for control of Indonesian coal miner Bumi (a headline that could have been penned by that alliterating alimentarian Mr. Min) reaches a crescendo in London today.

Nat Rothschild 300x199 WOW: Nathaniel Rothschild

Nat was hardly out of the news last year after he sued the Daily Mail for huge libel damages… and lost. The scandal had everything: whipping, a British Lord (Peter Mandelson), money (Oleg Deripaska, Russia’s richest man) and expensive French wine. Although Nat does moan that for generations, the family lost money on Bacchus. A sentiment Johann Rupert (l’Ormarins) and Christo Wiese (Lourensford) must share. Although Christo’s sale of Lanzerac last year to British property investors and Jonkershoek jollers must have netted him a tidy profit. How ironic that Nat owns Lafite as the man himself, like former French President Nicholas Sarkozy and our own Jacob Zuma, is teetotal.

Nat had his fill of drinking at Oxford University where he was a member of the notorious Bullingdon Club, the all-male drinking society which counts the current British Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer as old boys.

His most notorious exploit was pushing a portaloo down a steep hill – with a friend inside. A bit like this year’s New Year’s festivities on Rose Street where an energetic South Easter sent portaloos from Paarl rolling down the road towards Sea Point with singing Kaapse Klopse, inside.

The Mail unkindly notes that Nat is “not blessed in the looks department, he’s got carrot-red hair and freckles. But Nat is very charming and has a penchant for fast cars. At college [Wadham], he was known as a babe magnet – at parties, the beautiful girls would flock to him like bees to honey. That’s what the name Rothschild does for you.”

In the High Court it emerged that Nat had flown Lord Mandy to Abakan in Siberia on his Gulfstream. A jet in which he spends around 750 hours a year in “drinking masses of Diet Coke and coffee. Perhaps that’s why he’s so successful – he’s just so alert” according to Tatler magazine.

All this in between skiing at Klosters or hanging out in his “breath taking, minimalist Manhattan town house” which was featured in Men’s Vogue magazine, filled with David Hockney paintings.

The Mail reports “the property is littered with giant flat-screen TVs and expensive boys’ toys, with lacquered sliding panels hiding any mess. Modernistic touch screens control the music, heat and televisions, and an outdoor shower graces the rooftop terrace.

Only the wine cellar betrays his old-money heritage, with the family connections to Château Mouton and Château Lafite-Rothschild. Some 670-odd backlit bottles are cradled inside a series of top- of-the-range glass- doored refrigerators, jeroboams of Pierre-Jouet champagne jostling for space with the finest vintages from Bordeaux.”

Rather than Voldemort’s lair, Abakan provided a “fascinating” tour of one of Oleg’s aluminium smelting plants. Aprés tour there was “five-a-side football and a floodlit game of ice hockey [followed by] ‘the most delightful banya,’ a traditional sauna, where a young man beat them with birch leaves, a treatment supposedly good for the circulation” according to The Guardian.

South Africans star in many of Nat’s adventures. Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi, King of the 300,000 strong platinum plated Royal Bafokeng Nation, was invited to his three-day 40th birthday party in Montenegro in July 2011.

Other guests included Tamara Mellon, stylish owner of Jimmy Choo shoes plus mining moguls galore. The Telegraph reported Taittinger on tap (I’m having lunch with Clovis Taittinger at Bizerca Bistro next week) while the menu was “grilled squid and prawns, mozzarella, focaccia and olives as the antipasti starters, grilled local fish with salad for the main course and panna cotta with wild berries and an almond torte for dessert.”

Ivan Glasenberg, former Wits accounts student, now billionaire CEO of Glencore, whose listing last year netted Nat a tidy profit, was also there. His partner in the mining interests supplying coal to Chinese and Indian furnaces is James Campbell, former head of coal at Anglo American.

Oleg owned the largest yacht at Montenegro, the £80 million Queen K. The oligarch’s property portfolio used to be managed by Dublin-born Cormac Keane, who for a short while was Cape Town’s most outspoken restaurateur.

In his trademark Alexander McQueen bumsters, Cormac took over the Showroom restaurant of wild boy Bruce Robertson (lunch with Bruce at Paul Cluver tomorrow) and renamed it Portofino with SA’s own coal magnate Peter Gain as backer, back in 2009. The pair bought R3.5 million worth of stainless steel all-singing, all-dancing kitchen and rows of Philippe Starck ghost chairs from the liquidator “at a good price.”

Portofino arrived on my radar screen via a photocopy of the menu in a plain white envelope. For Cormac is the antithesis of today’s Biscuit Mill restaurateurs who pay luvvies and their hubbies to tweet their venues. He did his own PR in red Campers on a red scooter in Marcello Mastroianni sunglasses with a Shillelagh under his arm to deter the muggers of lower Buitengracht. Let’s hope he didn’t need to use it in Montenegro!