Lives of the fellows

Max, Baron Rayne of Prince’s Meadow in Greater London Rayne

b.8 February 1918 d.10 October 2003
Kt(1969) Hon LLD Lond(1968) Hon FRCPsych(1977) Hon FRCP(1992)

Max Rayne was a successful property developer and philanthropist, who felt it was his duty to distribute his wealth to a large number of worthy causes, particularly in the arts and medicine. He was born in London, the eldest of three children. Originally from Poland, his family settled in the East End before the First World War. His father, Phillip, was a tailor and his grandfather a Hebrew scholar. Max attended the Central Foundation School in Bow and, although he initially joined his father’s tailoring business, attended evening classes in accountancy and psychology. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Max joined the RAF, becoming a radio mechanic. He apparently excelled at this to such an extent that, to his great regret, he was not given an opportunity to fly.

After the war, although he returned to his family business for a while, he began to acquire wealth by mortgaging and sub-letting in the West End, thereby entering the commercial property business where there were then major opportunities for wealth creation. Much of the property development was carried out through London Merchant Securities plc, a diversified property and capital venture business of which Lord Rayne became chairman. Lord Rayne was not only responsible for transforming a major part of the West End which had suffered wartime damage, but also for enlivening an area which suffered from the effects of drab post-war austerity.

The Foundation, which continues to bear his name, was established in 1962. The arts and medicine were major beneficiaries. Lord Rayne himself had a genuine appreciation for the arts. Indeed, in his own home he had a painting by Monet and statues by Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink and Giacometti. But he was always anxious to share his appreciation for the arts, for example, when the National Gallery wished to purchase Cézanne’s ‘Les grandes baigneuses’ in 1964, he agreed to fund half the very considerable amount, provided that the source of this funding was not revealed.

In addition to donations to the performing arts, including ballet, theatre and film, he became chairman of the London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet) and, together with Beryl Grey as artistic director, put the organisation on a sound footing, enabling it to obtain grants from the Arts Council and the Greater London Council (GLC). As chairman of the National Theatre, which had a somewhat turbulent beginning, Lord Rayne’s qualities enabled him to overcome some of the disputes. He had to deal with the likes of Lord Olivier and Sir Peter Hall as artistic director, each having firm convictions. This was not an easy task, but Lord Rayne’s patience and stewardship enabled the National Theatre to become a respected institution with a worldwide reputation.

Education was another major beneficiary. Lord Rayne donated money to Darwin College, Cambridge, Southampton University, and to St George’s and St Catharine’s College, Windsor. He was also a governor and vice-president of the Yehudi Menuhin School. Funding was provided for the London Library and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). A substantial donation from the Rayne Foundation was given for the only Jewish/Arab school in Jerusalem, which is named after Max Rayne. This was one of many projects directed towards the city’s health and welfare, aimed at promoting co-existence among Jerusalem’s different population groups.

Lord Rayne also made a major contribution to medical research. Although there are a number of charitable organisations, trusts and research councils which fund medical research, the Rayne Foundation was responsible for promoting a relatively newly recognised but vitally important initiative for medical research, encouraging research where advances in the laboratory are closely directed towards the benefit of patients. This major thrust towards so-called ‘translational research’ is now being encouraged by such organisations as the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, which are now encouraging medical schools to train clinician scientists who will be given opportunities to undertake research for higher degrees.

Max Rayne’s enthusiasm, foresight and generosity has endowed five Rayne units, four of which are appropriately located in teaching hospitals in the UK, and one at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Although the direction of research varies from institute to institute and may change over time, the Rayne Foundation has ensured that each unit has space, integrates clinical practice and research, and has a clearly established management structure.

One of the earlier Rayne institutes was at St Thomas’ Hospital. The Foundation’s funding made possible the construction of an extra floor, covering about an acre, on top of the newly constructed treatment block, providing space for units focusing on gastrointestinal research, bio-engineering, nuclear medicine, immunology, vision research and cardiovascular research.

Lord Rayne was a true philanthropist - generous, self-effacing, invariably courteous and approachable. Wherever possible, he avoided publicity. In fact, many of the organisations he was involved with never knew he was a benefactor.

Jehangir Banatvala

[The Times 11 October 2003; The Independent 13 October 2003; The Guardian 14 October 2003; The Daily Telegraph 22 October 2003]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List