In Memoriam: Henry Kissinger, 100

Chaired CMB International Advisory Committee, 1977-1981


Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State and advisor to presidents, was also a close friend and advisor to David Rockefeller – and Chase Manhattan Bank – at a time when CMB was growing its international footprint.
Kissinger, who died November 29, 2023 at the age of 100, had numerous ties to the Rockefeller family. He had also been close friends with David's brother Nelson; before they married, Kissinger's wife, Nancy, had been a senior aide to the former New York governor on Kissinger's recommendation. Kissinger gave a eulogy at David Rockefeller's memorial service at Riverside Church in 2017. (Rockefeller died at the age of 101.)
Kissinger served on Chase Manhattan's International Advisory Committee from 1977 to 1981. The committee had been launched with 18 members in 1965, with John H. Loudon, board chair of Royal Dutch Petroleum, as chair. By the time Kissinger joined, first as vice-chair and then succeeding Loudon as chair in early 1978, the committee was up to 22 members – all top executives from companies with international interests. According to The New York Times, the committee met twice a year and had no executive authority, but it consulted with Chase's top management on economic and political developments. 
Bill Flanz, who spent 19 years at Chase Manhattan Bank, served as Area Director for the Asia Pacific area before he left Chase in 1986. Asked to write something about Kissinger's relationship with Chase, he provided the following:
"In many ways, Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller were partners in creating the foundation that enabled JP Morgan Chase to become the international powerhouse it is today.
"Henry and David were founders of the Trilateral Commission in July 1973, which brought business leaders from the United States, Europe, and Japan together in what was for some years a very influential organization. This was the same month I arrived in Tokyo, to serve as Japan Country Manager. I can attest to the influence and access David and Henry provided, as Chase rapidly expanded its business in Japan, and with Japanese multinationals throughout the world.
"When Henry Kissinger stepped down as Secretary of State in 1977, he joined Chase’s International Advisory Committee. With Henry serving as Chairman of the IAC, and David as Chairman of the Bank, they attracted powerful business leaders from around the world to join the Chase IAC.
"In Henry, I believe David saw a uniquely knowledgeable international historian and political scientist, who understood the context and psychology that governed the behavior of national leaders. With Henry’s insightful advice, David was able strategize about where and how to expand Chase’s footprint.
"The IAC, which often held its meetings in important Chase target countries, drew upon its members to help Chase accelerate the creation of a much broader global platform, as Chase strived to catch up with Citi’s much larger network. With Henry’s help, David was determined to create a global bank from what was at the time a very U.S.-centric corporate 'Chase National Bank', and a NYC consumer-oriented 'Manhattan Company'.
"Henry and David’s partnership was not without controversy. In 1979, while serving as head of Chase’s Middle East and North African Area, I witnessed the arrival of Khomeini in Tehran, which began a multi-month saga as Chase worked to recover its loans and investments in Iran.
"There was constant turnover in the Khomeini-led government, so each time I arrived in Tehran to negotiate with the Governor of the Central Bank or Minister of Finance, I found a new man in a grey suit and tie (while a heavily-bearded, jeans-wearing young man sat on a couch, taking notes on a yellow pad).
"Chase was ultimately successful in recovering its assets, as we had more deposits from The National Iranian Oil Company than our assets at risk. Milbank Tweed successfully argued what was called the 'Big Mullah Theory', leading the International Court in The Hague to award Chase the right to offset sufficient NIOC deposits to cover all our loans, accrued interest, penalties, and investments related to all government and private sector Iranian entities.
"During this same time, Henry and David successfully lobbied the U.S. government to allow the Shah to enter the United States for cancer treatment after the Shah’s expulsion from Iran. Bringing the Shah into the United States (when Iran wanted him returned for trial) was the triggering event that led to the sacking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and the holding of hostages for more than a year. This undoubtedly played a part in establishing the acrimonious relationship that continues to exist between the United States and Iran.
"People will make their own judgments about the role Henry played in helping the Shah receive the medical care he was unable to receive in Mexico, or any of the other countries where the Shah sought and received sanctuary.
"What can be said is, thanks to its very capable current leadership, JP Morgan Chase has grown to become the world’s most successful bank, by skillfully capitalizing upon the global franchise that Henry Kissinger helped Chase establish."
David Rockefeller succeeded Kissinger as chair of the bank's International Advisory Committee upon Rockefeller's retirement as Chase chairman in April 1981. Kissinger then became a counselor to Chase on international affairs.
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