Despite having one of the most famous last names in the world, David Rockefeller Jr. didn't know his family was wealthy until he heard it from his classmates.
"I actually had other people in school telling me I was a wealthy person," says Rockefeller, chairman of Rockefeller & Co. and the great grandson of John D. Rockefeller, America's first billionaire. "I didn't know my family was wealthy.
"I didn't personally feel rich, so I disagreed with them," he says.
It's hard to imagine having the last name "Rockefeller" and not knowing you're wealthy — the family had an $11 billion fortune as of 2016, according to Forbes. And more than 2,000 items that were part of the estate of David Jr.'s father, David Rockefeller, will be auctioned at Christie's May 8 to May 10, with proceeds estimated to top $500 million, all of which will go to charity. The auction will include a Picasso estimated to fetch over $100 million and a Matisse expected to sell for over $90 million.
David Rockefeller Jr., who's now in his 70s, grew up in a world of undeniable privilege. He lived in a townhouse on Manhattan's tony Upper East Side and a country home in Westchester County, both filled with art and antiques. He attended the Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the most prestigious prep-schools, and his dad was chauffeured to work each day.
Yet for all their trappings of wealth, the Rockefellers worked hard to downplay their vast fortune, even within the family. The Rockefellers didn't buy yachts or sports cars or fly on private jets. They had nice homes and artwork, but some of that had been in the family for generations. They preferred giving to spending and frugality to flash.