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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maurice Wertheim – Renaissance Man

Maurice Wertheim was born in New York City 16 February 1886  and passed away 27 May 1950 in Cos Cob, Connecticut.  Wertheim was an American investment banker, chessplayer, chess patron, environmentalist, and philanthropist. He financed much of the activity in American chess during the 1940s. Wertheim founded Wertheim & Co. in 1927.

Wertheim and Co. was an investment firm founded in 1927 by Wertheim and Joseph Klingenstein, who met when they worked together at Hallgarten & Company. The firm engaged primarily in the merchant-banking business; it invested in companies and real estate primarily for the benefit of its own partners and a small number of investment-advisory clients from its formation until the deaths of Wertheim and one of his senior partners (Edwin Hilson) in 1952. After 1950, control of the firm passed to co-founder Joseph Klingenstein and under his leadership the firm created one of the first professional research departments on Wall Street.

Although its size and visibility did not keep pace with those of fellow firms firm expanded significantly in the early 1970s. Under the leadership of Klingenstein's son Fred, Wertheim & Co. expanded its services and by 1970 had 20 partners and approximately 200 employees generated annual revenues of around $40 million.

By 1986, when the Klingenstein family sold their interest in the firm to a British merchant bank, and the name of the firm was changed to Wertheim Schroder.   In 2000 Schroders sold their interest to Smith Barney.

Wertheim graduated from Harvard University in 1906. He inherited nearly half a million dollars from his father, who had been successful with the United Cigar Manufacturers Company. He entered the investment banking field in 1915 in New York, and founded his own firm Maurice Wertheim and Company in 1927, developing a very successful business in mergers and acquisitions, and becoming wealthy in the process. During World War II, he served as a dollar-a-year man on the War Production Board in the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Wertheim was a strong amateur chess player, who enjoyed the game, and put a lot of effort into his correspondence play. He was also interested in the theatre, fishing, nature conservancy, and art. He donated 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) on eastern Long Island to the United States government in 1947; this became the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. He arranged for the donation of his collection of French Impressionist paintings to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University upon his death.

His main contributions to American chess were as a patron and organizer. He financed the 1941 U.S. Championship match between Samuel Reshevsky and I.A. Horowitz and he assisted financially the Manhattan Chess Club with a move to better quarters in 1941.

It was Wertheim who conceived the idea for the 1946 chess match between the United States and the Soviet Union in Moscow, convinced the U.S. State Department that it would make a difference in thawing the Cold War.  Additionally, Wertheim financed it, paying for the trans-Atlantic travel and hospitality upon arrival.

When the economic necessities of maintaining a family of four threatened cause Smauel Reshevsky to give up his chess career, a fund was raised among chess lovers by Wertheim which gave Reshevsky some $3,000 a year to supplement the $6,000 to $7,000 a year he made in tournaments and exhibitions. The figure of $6,000 a year may not seem like much today, but in the mid-1940’s it’s buying power was the equivalent of over $70,000 today.  In those days that $3,000 would be worth about $36,000 today.

After his death from a heart attack in 1950, a memorial Maurice Wertheim chess tournament was organized in 1951 in New York in his memory.

He married Alma Morgenthau in 1912, and they had three daughters, one of whom was the historian Barbara W. Tuchman. Alma died in 1974. He married Ruth White in March 1930, but they had no children and divorced in 1935. He married again in 1944, and he and his third wife Cecile Berlage deeded 1800 acres of land straddling the Carmans River to the people of America. The land was originally purchased as a hunting retreat and known as "Stealaway." It is now the core of the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

This hunting lodge estate is rarely mentioned in family reminisces and biographies. The impressions of local residents was that it was a very private retreat for Maurice and his wife, and a few close friends with similar interests (the Wertheims also had a large mostly rural estate in Cos Cob, Connecticut; a fishing lodge on the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec, Canada; and a home in Cuba). The estate lodge on the banks of the Carman's River, was very modest, not much more than a shack in the woods. The farmland that once occupied most of the land was allowed to return to its natural state, and the river and bay marshes were left undisturbed. Little was known locally of the man, Maurice Wertheim.

He wrote of himself, "Sometimes, in a light moment, I say about myself that my chief interests in life are banking, the theatre and fishing, but that their importance to me is in the inverse of the order named." His children include well known authors and environmentalists.

In the following game he defeats the strong New York Master, Dr. Erich W. Marchand in a correspondence game played in 1943.

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