“Boy wizard of international finance”
Serge Rubinstein was a womanizer, millionaire, conman and draft dodger. He was a crook — who called himself an international financier — and he got away with it because highly placed people were impressed by his spending and his patter. Born in St Petersburg, he claimed that his father had been a financial adviser to Rasputin. After the Russian Revolution the family fled the country and arrived in Stockholm. A peripatetic existence followed and in Vienna his parents sent Rubinstein to see the psychologist Dr Alfred Adler who told him, “The way you are now, you’ll be driven by ambition and desires.” Rubinstein never went back.
By the time he was 23, he was the manager of the Banque Franco-Asiatique in Paris, which was the French financial agent for the Chinese government. A financial finagle in which he bought a million dollars worth of bonds for $25,000 led him to be labelled a “boy wizard of international finance”. In 1935 he had to leave France after one scandal too many (he believed he was deported because he slept with the mistress of Premier Pierre Laval) and settled in the United States in 1938. He did not temper his behaviour and was charged with everything from swindling to violating the Mann Act (with a blonde on a Caribbean cruise) for which he was acquitted after paying double the legal fees.
In 1941 he married redheaded model Laurette Kllborn and then bought a mansion on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. He conducted his business affairs from a suite of offices on Wall Street populated by innumerable beautiful secretaries. During the Second World War he was jailed for two years and fined $50,000 for draft evasion and his wife divorced him. Out of prison, he continued his womanizing ways, giving keys to his harem of lovelies. When he became fed up with them, he simply changed the locks.
On 26 January 1955 he dined with shop-worker Estelle Gardner at Nino’s La Rue before retiring at 12.30am for a nightcap at his mansion. After an hour she left, as he was tired. Not too tired at 2.30am to call Pat Wray, another lover. She never arrived but his murderer did. That morning Rubinstein’s English butler found his blue silk pyjama-clad master bound, gagged, strangled and quite dead.
814 Fifth Avenue,New York City, USA
Thursday 27 January 1955
The murder was never solved and one reporter quipped, referring to Rubinstein’s lack of honesty, “They’ve narrowed the list of suspects down to ten thousand.”