Sir James Goldsmith: Multifaceted Maverick
NEW YORK (AP) _ Sir James Michael Goldsmith, the Anglo-French financier who is battling with the management of Crown Zellerbach Corp., is a lot of things. But he certainly isn’t conventional - personally, politically or professionally.
Known as Jimmy, the 51-year-old multimillionaire set his sights on America after racking up considerable successes in Europe.
His scrap with Crown Zellerbach, the San Francisco-based forest products company follows one with Continental Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn., last year.
Although he failed in the earlier $2.4 billion bid for what was once known as Continental Can Co., Goldsmith did make an estimated profit of $35 million when Peter Kiewit Sons Inc. and West Coast investor David Murdock stepped in to buy Continental.
The secretive dealmaker - who declined through a spokesman to be interviewed for this article - also tried to gain control of New York-based St. Regis Corp., which paid him a reported $50 million profit for his 9 percent stake in the paper company before the Continental fight.
Goldsmith, who is said to be worth about $900 million, also recently held a small stake in Colgate-Palmolive Co., the New York-based househinancier broke up and sold off the pieces for $500 million in profit. But he kept more than a million acres of U.S. forest lands.
Goldsmith, who is balding, 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds, also owns and has spruced up the Elmood Park, N.J.-based Grand Union Co., which operates a chain of food stores.
The financier began attracting attention at an early age.
When he was 20, he eloped with Isabel Patino, the teen-age daughter of a Bolivian tin magnate. The newspapers loved it.
Tragically, she shortly died of a cerebral hemorrhage following the birth of their daughter, who is also named Isabel.
Goldsmith’s father, Frank, was a Conservative British politician who became a hotel owner in France. His mother was French, and Goldmsith himself maintains dual citizenship.
He has one younger brother, Edward, who is an environmentalist. They are descendants of the Goldschmidt family of wealthy German Jewish bankers that moved from Frankfurt to England and changed its name in the 1860s because of anti-semitism, according to the New York Times.
For several years after leaving Eton, a British prep school, Goldsmith gambled, worked as a cook at a hotel and joined the British army.
Afterward, with little money, he began doing what he now does on a grand scale, forming or restructuring companies.
In the mid-1960s, he formed Cavenham Ltd., a food concern that he parlayed into Europe’s third largest, with annual sales of more than $6 billion. It is now controlled by Goldsmith’s French holding company, Generale Occidentale.
His holdings form a complicated web.
His two main companies are Compania Financiera Lido of Panama, of which he owns 40 percent, and the Brunneria Foundation of Liechtenstein, which owns the rest of Lido, according to the Times.
These two companies in turn own companies in Hong Kong, France, Britain, the Bahamas and the United States, the newspaper says.
Goldsmith, who was knighted in the mid-1970s, also holds oil reserves in Guatemala and publishing and gambling interests in Europe.
His brother told the Wall Street Journal: ″He was always driven. Even when he was young he was always buying and selling things. He was very competetive and ambitious.″
Goldsmith once told Forbes magazine that there are four attributes for success: ″Appetite, luck, the right people and fear.″
Extremely conservative politically, Goldsmith is open about one fear, that Communist journalists are infiltrating the Western media.
But he apparently is not afraid of what people think about his personal life.
He has been described as volatile - both charming and hot-tempered.
But he told the Journal last year: ″I would describe myself as quite placid. I never recognize myself in stories I read.″
Eyebrows rose when he openly maintained an English mistress and two children in London while he was married to his second wife, Ginette, who also bore him two children and lived in Paris.
In the late 1970s, that union ended and Goldsmith wed his English mistress, Lady Annabel Birley, who bore him their third child, a son who is now about 5 years old.
He told Time magazine, ″Nobody can accuse me of humbug,″ or deception.
″Jimmy’s a natural tribal polygamist,″ Fortune quoted Goldsmith’s brother as saying.
The financier maintains residences in London and Paris, and when he travels to this country, he brings a butler, the Times says.
He reads voraciously and plays tennis badly, the Times also said.