David Rockefeller Dies At 101
He was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Co., who became the first billionaire in the United States. David's father, John D. Rockefeller Jr., built Rockefeller Center in Midtown — still the largest development in New York City history — and David was instrumental in selling a 51% stake in the family's real estate business, the Rockefeller Group, along with control of the complex, to Mitsubishi in 1989.
After Mitsubishi, and most Japanese investors in New York City commercial real estate in the 1990s, fell on hard financial times, Rockefeller formed a syndicate to buy the 22-acre complex out of bankruptcy, eventually reselling it for $1.85B to Tishman Speyer and the Crown family of Chicago.
For more than a decade in the 1970s and 1980s, Rockefeller controlled Chase Manhattan Bank, commonly known as "Rockefeller Bank" at the time, although his family never held more than a 5% ownership stake. As Chase's board chairman and CEO, he traveled the world, expanding it into a global enterprise.
Rockefeller was also one of the central figures in turning Lower Manhattan into the financial capital of the world. He was the founder of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, the parent organization of what is now known as the Alliance for Downtown New York. In the late 1950s, he convinced the board of Chase to construct a new headquarters, called One Chase Manhattan Plaza, recently rebranded and renovated as 28 Liberty. He is credited as one of the champions of developing the original World Trade Center.
Rockefeller was “a man whose vision was synonymous with the long term," Downtown Alliance president Jessica Lappin said in a release. "What he saw and helped bring about could be measured in decades and generations, not mere weeks, months or years.”
Using his fortune for a variety of philanthropic endeavors, Rockefeller's contributions were ever-present in the hallways of prestigious art museums, universities and public schools. Making a global mark, Rockefeller pushed for the interests of his bank and the United States in foreign capitals around the world, meeting with heads of state even though he never held a position in government.
He is survived by four daughters and two sons. He was the youngest of six. His last surviving sibling, environmentalist Laurance Rockefeller, died in 2004.