Don't Flinch

April 4, 2008

The residence is located in lower Fairfield County, Connecticut. The gate opens automatically as someone on the other side of the camera presses a button. The driveway is over two miles long and leads to a miniature castle-stone, turrets and all.

I drive up to the entrance, I cross the miniature moat and there's the ever present armed (owning a machine gun is legal in this state) valet to take my car. As I approach the front door, Ariel opens it. She's wearing something best described as a nightgown made of tissue paper. I follow her inside and into the study, passing walls of paintings by 20th Century artists like Alighiero Boetti and Lucio Fontana.

Take It All In Stride
It's easy to tell that they had a party at the castle the night before. Some guests of both genders are literally hanging from the ceiling of the study (i.e., Mi-ail Boleme). Other guests are still milling around. Many  are wearing leather over their faces-and nothing else. Ariel is worth about US$600 million. She is 31 years old.

Ariel's half-sister, Emeline, is not as grounded as she is. Anyone who knows them both would readily say that Emeline is the more eccentric of the two. Emeline has a penchant for "running" whatever city she's in. She'll tell you she has a weakness for well-toned muscles and certain "exotic" substances. She also has a personal net worth of roughly US$600 million.

As a point of reference, Ariel and Emeline are six months apart in age. They have the same father but different mothers, and neither mother was married to their father. In the aggregate their extended family is worth more than US$8 billion. Some aspects of Ariel's and Emeline's lifestyles are, by several definitions, a little extreme. However, with this level of wealth sometimes comes a preference and ability to move beyond traditional normative behavior.

Another example of this proclivity to live well but somewhat unconventionally is exemplified by Miko. She's a principal in a multibillion-dollar multifamily office with headquarters in the Far East. While working on a financing deal in New York, she suggested that the project team relax together after a particularly long day. This translated into a visit to one of her private clubs in lower Manhattan where everyone took a communal bath and got an erotic massage.

Advisors who want to work with the super-rich must realize that there might come a time when they're in situations that are somewhat "unusual." In addressing this issue with some very successful advisors, I've noticed that they tend to be intrigued, but apprehensive. They are generally concerned about how they would react if such a situation ever presented itself.

The key to success in these situations is very simple: Don't flinch. No one has to party with Ariel, or run the city with Emeline, or take a bath with Miko to do business with them. However, any advisor who wants to work with these types of clients cannot be stunned or surprised by their sometimes extreme actions. Just take it all in stride. And if you do feel comfortable mixing business with pleasure, just ease yourself into the very hot scented bath.