Monday, June 2, 2008

tough times for plutocrats (cont'd)

It’s Not So Easy Being Less Rich
By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY
NYT June 1, 2008

NANCY CHEMTOB, a divorce lawyer in Manhattan, has found that her days have become crammed seeing clients, all worried about how an economic downturn will affect their marriages.

They seem to have nothing to fret about: their net worths range from $5 million to $1 billion. A blip in the markets shouldn’t send their chateau-size Park Avenue co-ops to foreclosure or exile them to Payless Shoes.

But Ms. Chemtob’s clients are concerned all the same, she said, because their incomes have shrunk, say, to $2 million a year from $8 million, and they know that their 2008 bonus checks are likely to be much less impressive.

One of her clients recently confessed that his net worth had decreased to $8 million from more than $20 million, and he thinks that his wife will leave him. He has hidden their fall in fortune by taking on debt to pay for her extravagant clothes and vacations.

“I literally had to sit there and tell him that he had to tell his wife that she had to stop spending,” she said. “He was actually scared she would leave him because their financial situation changed so drastically.”
...

Interviews with the people who actually see the bank statements, like divorce lawyers and lenders, say their clients are definitely living on less than they did a year ago, regardless of how expansive the definition of “less” may be. Hairstylists and private jet rental companies say the wealthy are cutting back on luxuries like $350 highlights and $10,000-an-hour jet rentals. Even nutritionists and personal trainers notice a problem. The wealthy are eating more and gaining weight because of the stress.
...

THEIR spouses could leave them when they discover that their net worth has collapsed to eight figures from nine. Friends and business associates could avoid them as they pass their lunchtime tables at Barney’s or the Four Seasons. And these snubs could trickle down to their children.

“They fear their kids won’t get invited to the right birthday parties,” said Michele Kleier, an Upper East Side-based real estate broker. “If they have to give up things that are invisible, they’re O.K. as long as they don’t have give up things visible to the outside world.”

So New York’s very wealthy are addressing their distress in discreet and often awkward ways. They try to move their $165 sessions with personal trainers to a time slot that they know is already taken. They agree to tour multimillion-dollar apartments and then say the spaces don’t match their specifications. They apply for a line of credit before art auctions, supposedly to buy a painting or a sculpture, but use that borrowed money to pay other debts.
...

Other wealthy clients are cutting luxuries that they think their friends and relatives won’t notice, according to Mr. Del Gatto of Circa. At Circa’s midtown offices, he said, the seven consultation rooms have been busy with customers selling their precious gems. Some older couples, he said, are selling estate jewelry to help support their children who have lost Wall Street jobs. Bankers are paring down their collections of Patek Philippe watches. Wives from Greenwich and Scarsdale are selling 2-carat to 35-carat single-stone diamond rings. One recent client explained to Mr. Del Gatto that she was selling $2 million in diamonds she rarely wore, because her friends wouldn’t notice that they were gone.

“She said, ‘If I sold my Bentley or my important art, they would notice,’ ” he said. “That we hear, in differing examples, every day.”
...

Justin Sullivan, managing director of Regent Jet, which leases private airplanes, said most clients in real estate and on Wall Street are switching to chartered jets over private jets, and cutting their flight budgets by about 25 percent. One New York real estate developer cut his budget to less than $250,000 a year from $1.5 million a year.

“A year ago, he would have only flown Gulfstreams,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Now it’s moving to the point where he’s flying Beech jets and Learjets.”

Some wealthy New Yorkers are even cutting back on relatively smaller things. At J Sisters, a midtown Manhattan salon where celebrities like Naomi Campbell and Gwyneth Paltrow mingle with Wall Street clients, stylists and colorists say they hear about money worries all day. On a spring afternoon, a half-dozen hairstylists to the very wealthy talked about how customers are stretching their $350 highlights and $150 haircuts to every eight weeks instead of six weeks. Some women are cutting out highlights entirely, saying they would “rather be brunettes.”
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Clay Burwell, a personal trainer to many Wall Street executives, said that his clients were also feeling the toll. A year of eating more, drinking more and working longer hours has started to hurt their health.

“They come into the gym with a dark storm cloud over their head,” he said. “They look like hell.”

4 comments:

Harry the Homeless Humanitarian said...

Excuse me while I go back to my refrigerator box and cry for them.

Smiff said...

I guess this is also bad news for dere pied de terres?

Sarge said...

It's almost like they're daring the poor to have a revolution.

I know life hasn't been the same for me since I stopped getting my $350 highlights.

I hope they choke on it.

k-mad said...

I haven't had a good pieds de tairrzzz since like i dunno... february an s#i+?