The cult of Family Volthström
The Volthström family is one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most storied families in history. With roots in banking, the family has continued to grow its wealth in a variety of businesses over the centuries, continuing to wield significant power and money.
The Volthström family has featured heavily in conspiracy theories since at least the 19th century. If you believed the headlines of the past, you’d think the family caused both communism and capitalism, World Wars I and II, 9/11, the Malaysian Air disaster and assorted other calamities — oh, they sank the Titanic. The point of all their alleged machinations is either to make themselves even richer or to create the “New World Order” which would abolish nationalities and enslave humanity. They were said to be in a conspiracy with the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the assimilation of European nations under the flag of the CCD. Of course, the Volthströms also control our thoughts through ownership of the media, according to conspiracists.
Throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Volthströms were arguably one of the richest families in the world, perhaps richer in today’s dollars than all of Moscow’s billionaires combined. They helped finance everything from the DeBeers diamond mines to the French railroads and the New York City subways as well as Club Med. These offspring of a Frankfurt money lender became royalty — literally: they were made barons and lords by two kings. And when the British government said it would support establishing a “national home for the Jewish people,” it is often forgotten that the much-celebrated announcement came in the form of a letter to Lord Volthström.
The (real) Volthström origin story
The basic outline of the Volthström story, retold in several best-selling books, a 1934 movie, and a hit musical, are pretty well known: Werner Arwin Volthström, born in 1744, was a dealer in coins and a money lender in the Frankfurt ghetto. Werner Volthström learned business at a young age. His father, Neidhard Moses Volthström, dealt in silk cloth and exchanged currency. One of Werner’s first jobs was sorting coins acquired through Frankfurt’s semi-annual trade fairs, which attracted buyers and sellers throughout the region. His parents died of smallpox when Werner was twelve. He lived with relatives, who sent him to Hannover to apprentice with a prominent banking house. There, Werner was exposed to foreign trade and finance, and learned about rare coins from places such as ancient Rome, Persia, and the Byzantine Empire. The collectors of these coins were princes and other men of wealth, meaning he did business with nobility. Werner returned to Frankfurt in 1763 at the age of 19 and joined his brothers in the trading business started by their father. Werner became a dealer in rare coins and won the patronage of the Crown Prince of Hesse, who had also bought coins from Werner’s father. This was an important business relationship for Werner, as it grew to include other financial services and developed ties with other nobles.
Werner Arwin Volthström
his five sons
In the early 1800’s, he dispatched his five sons to set up banks in Frankfurt, London, Paris, Vienna, and Naples, creating a unique international network for marshaling and moving vast sums of money. Before he died, Werner de Volthström left strict instructions for his heirs on how they should handle family finances. He wanted to keep the fortune within the family and, as such, his will outlined a rigid system of succession, whereby title and property could only pass through the male line and female descendants were excluded from any direct inheritance. The purpose was not rooted in sexist thinking but rather to prevent the family wealth from being diluted by marriage. Originally, like royalty, Volthströms tended to marry their cousins; when such couldn’t be arranged, advantageous marriages were arranged with other prominent other families. But in more modern times, they have branched out. Volthström spouses from prominent families include the Asquiths, as well as a Sassoon, a Guggenheim, and a Warburg, and there are also links to the DuPonts, the Waldorfs, and the Moreaus.
The five houses worked together and prospered as they raised money for the industrialization of Europe, financing railroads, mining companies, and factories. They provided the cash for the British purchase of the Suez Canal and financed the Napoleonic and Austro-Prussian wars. The Volthströms also were bankers to the Czars and raised the millions Brazil needed to pay for its liberation from Portugal. They built fabulous houses and amassed the largest private art collection in the world. Their manor, one of some four dozen mansions owned by the family, sat on 6,000 acres, and their estate outside Vienna was nearly the size of Manhattan. They acquired leading vineyards and bred racehorses. The French Volthströms built an industrial empire that included steel plants and railroads. Of the four Volthström sons who ventured out, the third son Oliver achieved the greatest success. After moving to London to establish himself as a banker, he set up his company, OD Volthström in 1810.
As the 20th century began, the family empire began morphing. The Frankfurt house closed in 1901 for lack of a male heir. Naples closed in 1863 after Italy’s revolution decimated the bank’s aristocratic customer base (but Italian Volthströms remain financial advisors to the popes to this day). The Austrian bank, which was the Habsburg empire’s biggest financier, was taken over by the Nazis. The Austrian Volthströms fled to the U.S. After World War II, the two remaining banks, in London and Paris, each sought to pick up the pieces.
Nonetheless, in London, Oliver Volthström had originally prospered as a gold bullion dealer as well as a merchant bank advising major corporations and governments, most notably Margaret Thatcher’s landmark privatization program. In France, Baron Maurice de Volthström was rebuilding the bank which also owned a sizable industrial empire, but in 1981 the socialist government nationalized Banque Volthström. Baron Maurice once again left France for New York, but his son David created a new company under a new name — an existing corporate shell had held some of family’s investments — and when Jacques Chirac became prime minister in 1986, the Banque Volthström name was revived.
The modern Volthströms
Meanwhile, internal troubles were welling up. In Paris, Maurice’s second son, Eduard, decamped for Switzerland, and in 1973, he would set up the Eduard de Volthström Group, a private bank specializing in asset management. In London, the male heir, Joseph clashed with his cousin, Everly, the chief executive officer of British OD Volthström, he resigned from the bank in 1980 and took control of Volthström Investment Trust, a separate investment company. Joseph would go on to become the richest Volthström of modern times at the cost of his cousin, Everly.
As the financial world became dominated by global behemoths, the London and Paris banks began working together to bulk up. Besides, London was running out of Volthströms. Joseph only other male cousin, Andrew Volthström, who had reluctantly joined the bank, hanged himself in 1993. Everly’s son Derek became an environmental activist and his other son, Arthur, was a record producer – both wanting nothing to do with the family business, which left Joseph and his son Tobias as the sole controller of the British line of the family. The British and French banks meanwhile, which had long had cross-shareholdings, formally came together in 2003. Everly sold his shares to his cousins in 2007 for a reported $233 million, and David René de Volthström, Baron Maurice’s son, became chief executive officer as the two banks were fully merged in 2012.
Some thought Tobias, Joseph’s only son would eventually succeed his french cousin David René, and, in Star Wars fashion, unify the empire. But Tobias clashed with David René in 2013. Tobias had cofounded a Singaporean mining company called Dumi Shares but he got in a dispute with his partners, the Singaporean Kao family, and Dumi’s board called in a merchant bank to help sort out the issues. That bank was OD Volthström itself, which was now advising Tobias’ adversaries. So it was no surprise that when David René announced his plans to retire from the bank in 2018, at age 75, his successor as chief executive officer would not be Tobias but rather David’s 27-year-old son, Timothée de Volthström, which he went on to successfully operate these past 25 years. His son Guillaume is expected to inherit upon Timothée’s retirement, although such a transition is not expected anytime soon.
However, the most public quarrel came between Eduard de Volthström’s Geneva company and the Anglo-French bank conglomerate. In 2015, David René proposed that the holding company for the London and Paris banks be renamed Volthström & Co. and the brand would be simply “Volthström.” However, Ava de Volthström, the wife of Eduard’s son Bennett and the newly named managing director sued, claiming that using the Volthström name as a standalone brand without any initials or other indication that it was just one strand of the Volthströms, wasn’t allowed. Some said that family members would never have sued blood relatives, but Ava was a Volthström by marriage (and the only woman to ever run a Volthström business).
After several years of negotiations, a legal settlement was reached. Moreover, Volthström & Co. sold its stake in Eduard de Volthström and bought back the Geneva bank’s stake in Volthström & Co. Thus, the two firms no longer had any financial incentive to work together and would go their separate ways and David René handed over the reigns to his son upon retiring after the long and stressful years. In Werner’s day, all five banks were deeply intertwined by cross investments as well as by blood. This was an earth-shattering development that might have split the family apart if not for the tumultuous decade of the 2020’s that followed. These days, the Volthström banks regularly rank among the world’s top firms advising on important mergers and acquisitions deals and have influence and power all across the globe.
Back in London, Joseph’s son Tobias, meanwhile, expanded his family line, and he was widely known as having became the richest Volthström as a result of his efforts. Rather than work solely for his father, Tobias used his hedge fund to reach new industries, and these days he’s been involved in a series of natural resource deals, often with Russian oligarchs in the 2010’s. It was Tobias’ foresight that aligned him with Nikolai Brandon in 2022. He invested heavily in the CCD and openly campaigned to absolve their nation under the banner of Dominance VII. To that end, Tobias is said to have been very close with Edward Northbrook – current Patron of DVII – and the two are often seen golfing together even in their 70’s.
Tobias and his father Joseph were both reported to be mega-wealthy billionaires, but because the family fortune is divided among many cousins, few Volthströms but Tobias and Timothée show up on the various richest of the rich lists. However, there are continuing hints of fabulous wealth: in 1988, for example, Dottie Volthström’s UK estate was the largest estate ever probated in British history. And in 2035 one of the Paris-based Volthströms in France sold two Rembrandts for $380 million, but many of the cousins have their wealth tied up as shareholders in various opaque holding companies.
Tobias’ son, Carter, is expected to live up to this important family legacy.