Alain de Rothschild was born on January 7, 1910 in Paris, France. His father was Baron Robert de Rothschild was a banker. His mother was Gabrielle Nelly Beer. He was a member of the Rothschild family.
During World War II, he was sent to a detention camp.
He started his career at Rothschild Freres, later known as Banque Rothschild, a family investment bank, in 1946. He owned 25%.
He was the Chairman of the Investment Society of the North, the Society of Petroleum Investors, the Company of the North and the Discount Bank of France, all of which are owned by the Rothschild family.
He was a co-owner of Château Lafite Rothschild, a wine estate in Pauillac which produces Bordeaux wine.
He served as the President of the Conservatoire de Paris from 1954 to 1982, and the French Consistory from 1967 to 1982. He served as the Chairman of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France from 1976 to 1982.
In the aftermath of the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing, he suggested French politicians did not care about what had happened, and questioned "the inexplicable impotence" of the French police. Through the CRIF, he negotiated with President Giscard d'Estaing for increased police forces to keep synagogues safe.
He spoke out against the Goldenberg restaurant attack, also in Paris, shortly before his death.
He was an Officer of the Legion of Honour. He received the Croix de Guerre.
He married Mary Chauvin du Treuil. They three children:
- Béatrice Juliette Ruth de Rothschild (1939–), married to Armand Angliviel de la Beaumelle (m. 1962, div. 1962) and Pierre Rosenberg (m. 1981).
- Éric de Rothschild (1940–), married to Maria-Beatrice Caracciolo Di Forino (m. 1983)
- Robert de Rothschild (1947–), married to Debra Elisa Cohen (m. 1999, wid. 2001)
When President François Mitterrand was elected in 1981, Rothschild moved to New York City. A year later he died there of a heart attack on October 17, 1982 at the Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side. His funeral took place in Paris, where he was buried.
The Fondation Rothschild - Institut Alain de Rothschild, named in his honour, funds housing for those in need as well as Jewish causes.