A gold chess set studded with gems, a bottle of vodka that costs 1 million pounds ($1.3 million), or a fossilized T-Rex skeleton named Roosevelt: unusual gifts for the millionaire who has everything, and all available on borrowed cash.

MillionPlus.com caters to the shopping whims of the wealthy, connecting sellers of luxury goods with prospective buyers.

Chief Executive Officer Paul Welch isn’t alone in this market, but he offers a service to high-net-worth clients that competitors don’t -- finding them the financing to make their purchases.

It’s a good time to bundle luxury retail and lending to the wealthy.

Bank of America Corp.’s wealth-management businesses had $170 billion of loans outstanding at the end of the third quarter, 5% more than a year earlier, an increase driven in part by custom lending for items such as yachts, private jets and art. Luxury-goods retailers, once confined to brick-and-mortar stores, also are making gains online: e-commerce is expected to account for 25% of global sales by 2025, up from 10% today, according to a 2019 report by Bain & Co.

“There’s an increasing comfort with buying more and more expensive pieces online,” said Cristina Miller, chief commercial officer at online luxury marketplace 1stdibs, which specializes in antiques, jewelry and art. “Last holiday season we sold a $900,000 Cartier bracelet to someone who had discovered the site that day.”

The ranks of those wealthy enough to spend $900,000 in a stroke continues to swell. The number of people worth at least $50 million has climbed each year since 2015 to more than 168,000 now, according to Credit Suisse Group AG.

This burgeoning wealth class is increasingly hungry for credit, providing the purchasing power to snap up assets while retaining the liquidity needed to diversify investment portfolios. Middle Eastern entrepreneurs use leverage to fund purchases of yachts, jets and collectible cars, while their U.S. counterparts are increasingly seeking mortgages to buy homes, according to a report this year by BNP Paribas SA and consulting firm Scorpio Partnership.

Kevin Moyer, head of global wealth and investment management credit at Bank of America, said increased borrowing from this cohort is a product of the rich becoming more sophisticated in how they manage their money, and banks being more explicit in advertising their willingness to make such loans.
“When you acquire lifestyle goods, how do you do that? Where do you get the liquidity?” he said. “Do you divest, with the tax implications, or do you want to borrow to do it?”

So Welch is getting in on the boom.

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