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High-end investing – Money managers market Rockefeller brand

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The company that manages money for members of the Rockefeller family is marketing itself to investors outside the family in an effort to be more profitable, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Rockefeller & Co., which manages $5.5 billion – half of it for family members – has launched its own Web site, developed a branding icon for the business and may create a mutual fund bearing the Rockefeller family name, the Journal reports.

“We’re trying to move toward a brand-name image,” William Asmundson, the firm’s chief executive officer, told the Journal.

The firm, which manages investments and provides financial services for wealthy families, foundations, endowments and nonprofits, has lowered its investment minimum to $50 million from $100 million for full-service money management, the Journal says.

The minimum is $20 million for separate-account money management, and $5 million simply to invest in a Rockefeller fund.

By comparison, the minimum to invest in U.S. Trust Corp. is just $2 million.

Rockefeller & Co. first opened itself to outsiders in 1980, but only to a handful of foundations and endowments. In 1989, the families decided “to invite other families with like styles and outlooks in life,” David Rockefeller, former chairman of Chase Manhattan Corp., told the Journal.

Advising people with high net worth is a highly lucrative business, the consultant William White told the Journal, offering twice the profit margin of managing institutional money.

As a result, the Journal reports, Rockefeller & Co. faces stiff competition from Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley, which are strengthening their services in the area.

Spectrum Group says the number of households with net worths of $5 million or more surged to 410,000 in 1998 from 90,0000 in 1994, the Journal reports.

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