putting the tiers of true wealth into con­text

Putting the tiers of true wealth into con­text.

Yachts International - - Contents - By DuD­Ley Daw­son

There are dif­fer­ent lev­els of wealth. For me, that re­al­iza­tion hit home when I was hav­ing a water­front house built for my fam­ily on Florida’s Gold Coast. It was hardly an in­con­se­quen­tial in­vest­ment. Dur­ing that same pe­riod, our firm was pre­par­ing de­signs for two large cus­tom yachts. One was in the 150-foot range, and the shower doors—just the cus­tom, gold-plated shower doors—on that yacht cost more than my new home. I was far from the bot­tom of the fis­cal lad­der, but I cer­tainly was nowhere near the up­per rungs.

“The Wealth Re­port,” by London prop­erty con­sult­ing firm Knight Frank, fol­lows trends among ul­tra-high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als; those whose as­sets, ex­clud­ing their pri­mary res­i­dence, ex­ceed $30 mil­lion. Knight Frank’s list of “ob­jects of de­sire” should be no sur­prise to read­ers of this mag­a­zine. Mo­to­ry­achts and sail­ing yachts are first and sec­ond on that list, with pri­vate jets, race­horses and sports fran­chises, in that or­der, round­ing out the top five. And for the own­ers of su­pery­achts? Th­ese are the ne plus ul­tra on the net­worth lad­der. One ob­vi­ously needs much more than a mere 30 mil­lion bucks if he or she is go­ing to spend up­wards of $50 mil­lion on a yacht.

In many ways, th­ese in­di­vid­u­als are a lot like the rest of us—happy and sad, healthy and sick—in short, hu­man. Dur­ing the de­sign process, the client in ques­tion nixed lunch at a nearby Miche­lin 3-star beach club, opt­ing in­stead to in­dulge in a Whopper from Burger King, his fa­vorite, as we re­viewed the draw­ings and specs. But then, af­ter the mod­est lunch, and un­like the rest of us, he and his fam­ily headed to the South of France aboard his pri­vate jet for some qual­ity sail­ing time at his Mediter­ranean get­away es­tate. Therein lies the dif­fer­ence, and it’s not just the money.

Such in­di­vid­u­als are en­thu­si­asts in all they do, and they do it all, not set­tling for just one “ob­ject of de­sire” at a time. Be­tween bites of his greasy burger, our client shared with me that over three gen­er­a­tions, his fam­ily had owned 80 yachts of 80 feet or more. In fact, as his new mo­to­ry­acht neared com­ple­tion, this ded­i­cated en­thu­si­ast had us start on plans for a 160foot sail­ing yacht. He wasn’t into race­horses, but he had just sold his NFL fran­chise for nearly a bil­lion dol­lars. Four out of the top five ain’t bad.

One might sur­mise he was at the top of that ne plus ul­tra lad­der, but he wasn’t even close, just an­other mere bil­lion­aire. You’ll re­call I men­tioned that while I was build­ing my new home, we were de­sign­ing two cus­tom yachts. The other client was the guy at the top, dubbed at the time “the rich­est man in Amer­ica” in the fi­nan­cial press. He, too, en­joyed his “ob­jects of de­sire” in mul­ti­ples, also go­ing for four out of the top five. He didn’t own a sports team, but he bred a suc­cess­ful string of race­horses at his Ken­tucky farm. His yacht car­ried the name of his fa­vorite horse, which could have been but was not Sec­re­tariat. That story, in­volv­ing a coin toss, fig­ured promi­nently in a Dis­ney movie, but I never had the guts to raise the topic with him.

When our first client, the one with the 150-footer, learned of our sec­ond client, he gra­ciously de­ferred out of re­spect for the older gen­tle­man, sug­gest­ing we set his own project aside if nec­es­sary to en­sure the other yacht was com­pleted as soon as pos­si­ble. Then, in a rev­er­en­tial whis­pered aside, al­most as if shar­ing some deep se­cret, he said: “He’s quite wealthy, you know.”

There are in­deed many lev­els of wealth, with the true de­tails not to be found in any sta­tis­ti­cal re­port. Yacht own­ers are wealthy, and su­pery­acht own­ers are, well, “quite wealthy.”

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