bram goldsmith

Bram Goldsmith, the former Southern California real estate developer and banking pioneer who helped build City National Corporation into one of the largest American commercial banks, died on February 28. He was 93.

As chairman and CEO from 1975 to 1995, Mr. Goldsmith grew the company's assets more than five-fold, to $3.2 billion. He developed an outstanding team of bankers and added thousands of relationships with many of the region's most successful entrepreneurs and professionals, their businesses and their families. He dramatically expanded the bank's position in Southern California, successfully guided it through two very serious recessions and had City National listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Mr. Goldsmith was a director of the company for 50 years, chairman of City National Corporation for over 40 years, and an active member of the company’s Strategy and Planning Committee up to and through its most recent meeting just this month. 

“My father was a remarkable man, truly one of a kind,” said his son Russell Goldsmith, City National’s Chairman and CEO. “He accomplished an enormous amount during his long and rewarding life. Among other things, he established the high standards, reputation, values and value proposition that continue to define City National today. We are all very proud of him, and he in turn was deeply proud of this company, what it does for its clients and the thousands of colleagues who made it what it is today.”

Bram Goldsmith was born in Chicago in 1923. His parents were Bertha and Max Goldsmith.  He attended the University of Illinois and joined the U.S. Army in 1942. Following World War II, he returned to Chicago, but then moved to Los Angeles in 1952.

In 1953, a small group of local businessmen, including his father-in-law Ben Maltz, decided to open a bank that would cater to entrepreneurs, real estate professionals and the city’s growing entertainment industry. A year later, City National opened its doors, and Mr. Goldsmith was one of the new company’s first shareholders. 

Following its acquisition in November of 2015, City National became a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

“On behalf of all of my RBC colleagues, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Bram’s wife Elaine, to his son Russell and to the entire Goldsmith family,” said RBC’s CEO Dave McKay. “It is rare that you can describe someone as a visionary, but Bram was truly one of the great financial professionals of our age. I feel fortunate to have worked alongside him. Bram was committed to serving his clients and community -- a commitment that he demonstrated every day. He will be greatly missed.” 

Before he turned to banking, Mr. Goldsmith was a successful real estate entrepreneur.  He was responsible for the construction of many Southern California buildings, including the City National Bank building at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.

A philanthropist and community leader, Mr. Goldsmith led some of the most significant charitable organizations in Los Angeles.

He served as president of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles in 1969 and 1970, and chaired the 1965 Los Angeles United Jewish Fund Campaign. Today, the federation’s Los Angeles headquarters is the Goldsmith Center.

Mr. Goldsmith also was a national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal from 1970 to 1974, a board member of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from 1979 to 1999, and a board member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.  He was a lifetime trustee of all three organizations.

He was a board member of the Los Angeles Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 1981 to 1987. He also served as president of Hillcrest Country Club from 1972 to 1975.

Mr. Goldsmith also chaired the Wallis Annenberg Cultural Center Foundation and led the effort to renovate the old Beverly Hills Post Office and convert it to Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

Mr. Goldsmith is survived by his wife Elaine, their two sons Russell and Bruce, and five grandchildren.