Obituary: Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein, manager

BORN: 24 August, 1933, in Majorca, Spain. Died: 20 May, 2014, in London.

Richard Lowenstein with Keith Richards. Picture: Rex

Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein, a Bavarian aristocrat and money manager who guided the Rolling Stones to riches and through financial crises without ever acquiring a taste for rock music, died on Tuesday in London. He was 80.

Loewenstein masterminded the Stones’ release from a contract that had left them playing concerts and making records for almost nothing. He successfully urged them to leave England, initially for the south of France, to escape high taxes that would have taken between 83 and 98 per cent of their earnings. He copyrighted their red-tongue logo, enlisted General Electric to sponsor a stadium tour and licensed classic Stones hits for commercials. Microsoft and Apple have used the band’s songs.

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Loewenstein did business with a skein of companies in the Netherlands to reduce taxes. The Stones rehearsed in Canada, not the United States, for the same reason.

His background of handling the investments of the super-rich was invaluable. “He is a great financial mind for the market,” guitarist Keith Richards said in an interview with Fortune magazine in 2002. “He plays that like I play guitar. He does things like a little oil well. And currency – you know, Swiss francs in the morning, switch to marks in the afternoon, move to yen, and by the end of the day – you know, how many dollars?

“That’s his financial genius, his wisdom. Little pieces of paper. As long as there’s a smile on Rupert’s face, I’m cool.”

On the most prosaic level, Loewenstein got the group to stop accepting paper bags full of cash as payment. On the grand scale, he led in planning a tour – the group’s biggest at the time – to coincide with the release of the Steel Wheels album in 1989. The tour grossed £154 million worldwide and represented a patching up of the strained relationship between Mick Jagger and Richards.

The prince once described himself as “a combination of bank manager, psychiatrist and nanny”. He helped Jagger negotiate his divorce from Bianca Jagger in 1978 and his estrangement from Jerry Hall in 1999.

When Richards was arrested on heroin-trafficking charges in Toronto in 1977, Loewenstein showed the extent of Richards’ casual spending – £208,000 in the previous year – as evidence that Richards was wealthy enough not to have to commit crimes to feed a heroin habit. The charge was reduced to “simple possession of heroin”.

Rupert Louis Ferdinand Frederick Constantine Lofredo Leopold Herbert Maximilian Hubert John Henry du Loewenstein was born in 1933, into Bavarian royalty on the Spanish island of Majorca.

An ancestor helped repel the Huns in 907. He wrote in a 2013 memoir, A Prince Among the Stones, that his mother once owned a sixth of the Brazilian crown jewels, an inheritance he traced to one of her great-grandmothers, a daughter of Emperor Dom Pedro I of Brazil (1798-1834).

Loewenstein was on the last plane to London from Paris before the French capital fell to the Nazis in 1940, and enrolled at Beaumont, the Catholic public school in England, before going to Magdalen College Oxford, where he read history.

After graduating, he took a job as a stockbroker with the London office of Bache & Co. He and friends later bought a merchant bank, Leopold Joseph & Co for £600,000. This developed into a lucrative business in corporate finance and investment advice for the rich.

A friend who knew Jagger asked Loewenstein if he could help the Rolling Stones with their finances. They wanted to get out of a contract with their American manager, New Jersey accountant Allen Klein, that they said had yielded little profit for the group. Loewenstein negotiated an exit, but at a price: that Klein retained the rights to all the Stones’ songs up to 1971. The prince also helped extricate the band from a contract with Decca Records so that they could sign with Atlantic.

But he never warmed to rock music, saying he preferred classical, as he did a proper suit and handmade shirts. Indeed, he said he never played a Stones recording by choice.

The gulf between the classical music he preferred and the rock industry was never more cruelly exposed than when he invited Sir Yehudi Menuhin to a Stones’ concert in London’s Earls Court. Sir Yehudi fled after ten minutes, shouting: “I can’t take this any more.” Menuhin later described the show as “meaningless cacophony”.

If he had to listen to a rock band, Loewenstein said, he preferred the Beatles. In a review of his memoir, the Daily Telegraph said: “There is something tragically self-denying and wilfully ignorant about an educated man spending three decades on the road with the greatest band on earth and never enjoying a concert, or even approaching a glimmer of understanding what remarkable forces are at work when these individuals play together.”

The memoir itself irritated Jagger. “It just goes to show that well brought-up people don’t always display good manners,” he told an interviewer.

In A Prince Among Stones, he wrote of his relationship with the band: “All the time I worked with the Stones I never changed my habits, my clothes or my attitudes. I was never tempted by the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Although I enjoyed a good vintage wine, I was never a heavy drinker, nor a drug-taker. I always aimed to maintain a strict discipline backstage, for security reasons, and tried to see that the band and the entourage did not get drunk or disorderly.”

The Stones objected to few of Loewenstein’s initiatives to commercialise their music, even when he licensed Satisfaction for a Snickers ad. But in 2008 they rejected his plan for a takeover of the Rolling Stones by an unnamed organisation “on the fringes of the entertainment industry”, despite his assurance that the deal would allow the band members, all of them getting on in years, to “come into the harbour”.

Prince Rupert’s rich Catholicism and deep spirituality was another thing that marked him out as an oddity in the world of rock ’n’ roll. He was a long-time friend of the late Fredrik (Freddy) John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, one of Scotland’s leading Catholics, who died three years ago. Prince Rupert was a principal mourner at Freddy’s funeral at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, in June 2011.

The Prince was long an upholder of the Tridentine Mass and was heavily involved in the hospital and welfare work of the Order of Malta, the world’s oldest order of chivalry.

He was president of the British association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as well as Grand Inquisitor of the Constantinian Military Order of St George.

Loewenstein’s survivors include his wife, the former Josephine Lowry-Corry; his sons, Princes Rudolf and Konrad, both of whom became Roman Catholic priests; and his daughter, Princess Maria-Theodora, who married an Italian count.

• Copyright New York Times 2014. Distributed by NYT syndication service.