Grant, Albert (1831–99), MP, financial promoter, and fraudster, was born Abraham Zachariah Gottheimer in Dublin, 18 November 1831, son of Bernard/ Berton Gottheimer, a Jewish immigrant from central Europe, who traded in fancy goods from his premises at 61 Fleet St., Dublin. While he was still a child the family moved to London, where his father opened premises in Newgate St. Educated in London and Paris, he began his business career as a clerk and later as a traveller for a wine company. In April 1859 he formed the Mercantile Discount Co. and acted as the company's general manager, but the business failed after the ‘leather crisis’ of 1860–61. In 1864 he reformed the Mercantile Discount Co. and also founded the Credit Foncier (Feb. 1864) and Credit Mobilier (Mar. 1864). Six months later he amalgamated these two companies and began a series of share promotions. Operating in the frantic share market of 1862–6, his company promoted eleven major flotations during this period, all of which resulted in legal disputes. Changing his name to Albert Grant (July 1863), he operated on the simple principle that if share promotions were packaged in an attractive and professional manner, the general public would invest in the hope of making a quick profit. Most of the shares he promoted gave only minimal returns, and his investors suffered massive losses. His Credit Foncier and Mobilier Co. voluntarily dissolved itself after the financial crisis of April 1866. In 1868 King Victor Emmanuel conferred upon him the title of baron for his work with the Milan Improvements Co. – the improvements scheme provided the funds for the Victor Emmanuel art gallery in Milan. He next went into partnership with his brother Maurice Grant, forming a company of private bankers, Grant Brothers Co. (Feb. 1872). Together they promoted nineteen companies during the 1870s, most of which also ended in controversy. Some of the flotations promoted were the Russian Copper Co., the Varna railway, and the Land Company of Marseilles. His most notorious promotion involved the Emma silver mine in Utah. Issuing a prospectus in 1871, he sold £1 million worth of shares at £20 each; they were subsequently found to be worth 1s. each. Numerous legal actions were taken against him, and in the Twycross v. Grant case (1876) his legal counsel retired and refused to represent him. By June 1877 there were eighty-nine legal cases pending against him, and the expense of these actions eroded any money he had accumulated. It is estimated that during his career he obtained £24 million from investors, £20 million of which was lost. In May 1878 he established his final company, the General Banking Co. Not surprisingly, this company failed to attract investors and was liquidated (Feb. 1879). Although Grant continued as a private banker until 1888, he was constantly engaged in legal cases, and was forced to sell his personal possessions and property.
He also enjoyed a brief political career. Describing himself as a ‘liberal-conservative’, he was returned as MP for Kidderminster in 1865, retiring in 1868. He won the same seat in February 1874 but, following a protest, an investigation found that he had bribed members of Kidderminster council and also some of the general electorate. His election was declared void in July 1874. Known for his philanthropic works, he renovated Leicester Square and donated it to the London metropolitan board of works as a public park. He also gave a valuable Landseer to the National Portrait Gallery. Such gestures were attempts at gaining some form of respectability. Pursued through the bankruptcy courts to the very end, he died 30 August 1899 at his home in Aldwick Place, Bognor, Sussex.
He married (1856) Emily Skeffington-Robinson. It is believed that the character of Augustus Melmotte in Anthony Trollope's The way we live now (1875) was based on Grant.