by Phil Butler
Rio Tinto is interesting on more than one level. Outside today’s announcement that an Australian executive and three Chinese officials working with the mining conglomerate plead guilty to accepting bribes, there are the Chinalco deal, and other oddities afoot. Some of the investors in Rio Tinto, besides the new China connection that is, have their fingers in just about every natural resource pit there is.
Rio Tinto is currently the 4th largest mining conglomerate in the world. So, this deal between China and the UK/Australian company may not seem like big news, but looking just a degree or two left and right of the capital influx promised Rio Tinto by Chinalco (now number one by the way), it is interesting to watch the movers and shakers in resource commodities in the region and worldwide.
The Old World Charm of Natural Resources
Forget the deal, or lack of a deal as Goldman Sachs predicts in devaluing Rio Tinto, and consider who is behind the company founded on the river of the same name in Spain over a Century ago. If I brought up the Rothschild name again, would it surprise you? The Rothschild family took over control of the company way back in 1880, but the interesting part of this story fast forwards us to today. Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild, and other members of the world’s most famous banking family, still hold significant stakes in one of the old family businesses. A brief bit of research reveals Jacob Rothschild has at least two subsidiaries of his own wealth portfolio vested in Rio Tinto (among the many, many others).
Rothschild’s RIT Capital Partners held £12.5 million (PDF) of Rio Tinto in September. But more interestingly, Rothschild’s St. James Place Capital owned 3 percent of Rio Tinto at the beginning of this year. This may not seem all that interesting on face value, but consider the myriad of Rothschild holdings and subsidiaries. While not all that dramatic by themselves, other Rothschild investments, which by the way are as difficult to find out as hen’s teeth, reveal some interesting associations.