Felix G. Rohatyn, a former child refugee from Nazi-occupied France who became a pillar of Wall Street and a trusted government adviser who engineered the rescue of a beleaguered New York City from insolvency in the 1970s, died on Saturday December 14 2019 at his home in Manhattan. He was 91.
His death was confirmed by his son Nicolas Rohatyn.
Felix Rohatyn served as U.S. ambassador to France from 1997 to 2000 and is a commander of the French Legion of Honor. Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1928, Ambassador Rohatyn received his secondary school education in France. He has lived in the United States since 1942 and resides in New York City. Prior to his appointment as ambassador in Paris, Mr. Rohatyn was a managing director of the investment banking firm Lazard Frères & Co., LLC, in New York, which he joined in 1948, becoming a partner in 1961. He retired from the firm in 1997 in order to take up his post in France. From 1975 to 1993, he was also chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation of the State of New York, where he managed the negotiations that enabled New York City to resolve its financial crisis in the late-1970s. He served as a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) from 1968 to 1972. He also served on the boards of several NYSE-listed corporations, as well as on the board of Groupe Lagardère. Mr. Rohatyn is presently an honorary trustee of Carnegie Hall in New York City and a trustee emeritus of Middlebury College. He also serves on the boards of LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton, Publicis Groupe S.A., and Rothschild Continuation Holdings AG. Ambassador Rohatyn served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953. He received his B.S. degree in physics from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1949 and has also been awarded numerous honorary degrees. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Council of American Ambassadors, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among other nonprofit organizations. Ambassador Rohatyn is currently the president of FGR Associates LLC, a firm that provides financial advice to corporations.
Born in Vienna on May 29, 1928, Felix George Rohatyn was the only son of Alexander Rohatyn, a Polish Jew, and the former Edith Knoll, the daughter of a prosperous Viennese banker. Alexander managed his father-in-law’s breweries in Austria, Romania and Yugoslavia until 1934, when the rising Nazi menace prompted the family to uproot itself to France.
Mr. Rohatyn’s parents were divorced a few years later. His mother remarried, and in 1942, with France under Vichy control, she decided to flee once again. Reunited with Felix’s stepfather, who had escaped from a Nazi internment camp in Brittany, Edith traveled to the United States by way of Casablanca, Morocco; Lisbon; and Rio de Janeiro.
Resettled in Manhattan, Felix attended McBurney School, where he perfected his English, and then Middlebury College in Vermont, where he majored in physics. He graduated in 1949.
Mr. Rohatyn married Jeannette Streit in 1956, and they had three sons, Pierre, Nicolas and Michael. The marriage ended in divorce; she died in 2012. In 1979 he married the former Elizabeth Fly, whose two earlier marriages had ended in divorce. Ms. Rohatyn, a longtime supporter of education and the arts, died in October 2016.
In addition to his three sons, Mr. Rohatyn is survived by a stepdaughter, Nina Griscom, and six grandchildren.