Rupert Loewenstein: Sympathy for the Devil

Wow! Jumping Jack Flash! Who knew about this guy? One of the things I really like about the Economist is the way it produces interesting obituaries of people I ought to have known about but didn’t. This one is a classic.


THE music of the Rolling Stones did nothing for Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein. Perhaps “Paint it Black” was not too bad. Otherwise, he doubted that their cacophanies counted as music at all. If you made your way backstage at a Stones concert, passing through dozens of grades of status and access, past aides in black T-shirts and girls in not much, you would find him at the very nerve-centre, a portly, kindly figure in immaculate suit and tie, with his hands clapped over his ears.

He was there, on every tour for 39 years, because his financial nous had turned the Stones into the most lucrative rock band in the world. Mick had his hip-swivelling energy, and Keith his wild guitar; Prince Rupert, behind the scenes, contributed wisdom and suavity to the cafetière, along with high-class fun. Before he arrived, in 1969, they were stuck in a recording contract with Decca and tied to a financial adviser, Allen Klein, who creamed off half of what they earned. Over years of litigation Prince Rupert liberated them, restoring their rights to regular revenue from their songs. He also built up a global touring machine that pulled in millions from merchandising and corporate sponsors: Budweiser, Volkswagen, Chase Manhattan. Thanks to him, the Stones in 2006 paid tax at 1.6% on 20-year earnings of £242m.

Nonetheless, to stumble upon him backstage was as odd as to come across Jumpin’ Jack Flash in the pages of the “Almanach de Gotha”. He was the son of Bavarian aristocrats, and properly speaking (as he always spoke) was called Loewenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg. He could trace his descent on his father’s side from the royal house of Wittelsbach; his mother, the Countess of Treuberg, was related to the kings of Brazil. From a somewhat solitary childhood, which included being abandoned in Grasse when he was six with only a maid and a cook, he recalled his father telling stories of his ancestry and stressing the importance of tenue—the bearing necessary to a gentleman.

I particularly liked the story that when he first met up with Mick Jagger to discuss business he realised that he had seen him once before — when he had to step over his recumbent, stoned, form at a party.