Old Money Profile: Isaac Tigrett

Profile picture for Isaac Tigrett

More than a few people think that Old Money is all button-down collar oxford shirts, khakis, and investment banking. There is a lot of that, but Old Money also includes some people who don’t exactly fit the country club mold.

Take Isaac Burton Tigrett II, for example. Isaac was born in Jackson, Tennessee, scion to an established southern family. His father was a business partner of J. Paul Getty and his great-uncle and namesake, Isaac Burton Tigrett, was president of the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.

Isaac attended boarding school in Switzerland and found himself in London during the free-wheeling 1960’s.  There he met Peter Morton, son of a Chicago restaurant owner, and the two opened the first Hard Rock Cafe in 1971.

The restaurant–the first theme restaurant ever–was an instant success, and Isaac’s exploits soon became the stuff of legend. One such incident places Isaac behind the wheel of his 1957 Ford pick up truck in the early hours of the morning. Driving fast and furious–and in the wrong direction–on a roundabout in the city center with Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton in the back, the long-haired and bearded Tigrett was finally pulled over by exasperated London police. Unimpressed by the music legends on board, the officers of the law demanded to know why he was driving in the wrong direction. Referring to the signs directing more obedient and less intoxicated drivers through the lanes of traffic, one police officer impatiently asked, “Didn’t you see the arrows?” To which Isaac allegedly replied, “My man, I didn’t even see the Indians.” This comment led to his immediate arrest. At a court hearing the next morning, Tigrett plead guilty, paid his fine, then invited the entire courtroom to the Hard Rock Cafe for complimentary burgers and beer. Many, including the magistrate, took him up on the offer.

With polar-opposite personalities and business philosophies, Peter and Issac soon went their separate ways, carving up a map of the USA and the world, determining who could build Hard Rock Cafes where. And build them, they did.

Isaac would eventually sell his stake in the global phenomenon. In true Old Money fashion, he opted not to purchase a McMansion or gold-plated yacht. (He did locate and refurbish his uncle’s old abandoned private railroad car). Instead, he used the proceeds from the sale to fund the construction of an 800-bed hospital in rural India which provides free healthcare to some of the poorest people on the planet.

He then went on to start the House of Blues, and its International House of Blues Foundation, which provides educational programs for young people, teaching them about music, culture, and social progress, and how the three interact with one another. More success. More charity.

Now working on his next project, an eco-friendly resort in rural India, Isaac Tigrett is living proof that you’re never too Old Money to rock n roll.


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