Obituary: George Pinto

Unapologetic Zionist, merchant banker and talented eccentric


George Pinto, who has died in his 89th year, was a successful merchant banker, accomplished golfer and an unapologetic Zionist. He was also a talented eccentric.

As a director of Kleinwort Benson he took pride in proof-reading all manner of documents issued by the company, making sure syntax and spelling were correct and that they were intelligible to the layman. After a long day in the office he would retire to the Portland Club to play bridge until the early hours and, when his turn came, to bear alone the cost of dinner for the whole club.

As senior member of Royal St George’s at Sandwich, he played regularly in English amateur golf tournaments. But when he could he liked to play alone, with two balls, practising different shots with each. In inclement weather he simply donned a pair of Wellington boots. Afterwards, at the bar, he would order for himself a pint of milk. On one occasion he discovered a couple having sex in a bunker on the Sandwich course.Unperturbed he simply asked them for reassurance that they were club members!

George Richard Pinto was of Sephardic descent. His father, Major Richard Pinto, was the son of Eugene, a stockbroker who had married a daughter of Levi Cohen, one of the founders of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood. His mother was Gladys (née Hirsch). An older sister, Ann, was the first of the five wives of the second Lord Marks of Broughton. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (plus National Service in the Coldstream Guards), Pinto was articled to the accountancy firm,Cooper Brothers. In 1958 he transferred to merchant bankers Robert Benson Lonsdale, later merged with Kleinwort, Sons & Co to form Kleinwort Benson. He served as a director from 1968 to 1985.

Pinto’s Zionist sympathies derived partly from his connection with the Marks family and partly from the influence of his aunt Dorothy, who had married James de Rothschild.

A generous donor to Zionist causes, Pinto was a vice president of the Anglo-Israel Association, treasurer of the Israel Diaspora Trust and co-chair of governors of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He also chaired the Central Council for Jewish Community Services and the finance committee of the Jewish Blind and Disabled Society. An art lover, he was a patron of the National Gallery and a trustee of the Wallace Collection.

Rarely seen out-doors without his rolled-up umbrella, in the office he sat, jacketed, at a lectern illuminated by a single Anglepoise lamp. For all his wealth Pinto – who never married – in fact led an austere lifestyle. He died as a result of injuries sustained in a road accident. On his death Royal St George’s unusually flew its flag at half-mast.

Geoffrey Alderman


George Pinto: born April 11, 1929. Died September 10, 2018


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