Christopher Parr, Founder and EIC of Pursuisit, interviewed Robert Frank, a leading authority on the American wealthy, about his CNBC’s series ‘Secret Lives of the Super Rich’ premiering tonight. In the new series, discover the latest financial status of David & Jackie Siegel, the owners of Versailles, the largest home in America. Meanwhile, learn about Colin Cowie, celebrity party planner, and the outrageous requests that he receives from his clients. Oh, and then there’s bombproof underground luxury condos… Discover the ‘Secret Lives of the Super Rich.’
Q. Give us the quick pitch, tell us about your new CNBC Series ‘Secret Lives of the Super Rich.’
A. We take you inside a world that’s rarely seen and increasingly foreign to the rest of America: the lives of the Super-Rich. Viewers take a gilded tour of some of America’s most expensive homes, yachts, planes, cars and parties to see how the rich make and spend their fortunes. We don’t judge; we just reveal.
Q. Are there any shocking discoveries that the series uncovers?
A. The epiphanies are in the details and in the alternative reality of the rich: the Aspen millionaire who has only been to her $30 million mansion once in two years. The Los Angeles mansion owner who had his bedroom carpet copyrighted to make sure no one would have the same one. The humble mid-Western mechanic who has become one of the world’s top Ferrari restorers (and billionaires have to wait in line). The strange rituals that yacht owners follow when building a yacht (including the “magic penny” in the hull). The heiress whose idea of “listening to some music” is having a world-famous concert pianist play in her living room.
Q. Tell us about emerging new trends of the ultra-affluent, what’s hot?
A. One trend is “practical excess” – fuel-efficient yachts, vintage Ferraris that can be seen as “investments,” environmentally-friendly infinity sinks where water shoots out of a slab of onyx with a brush of the hand. The wealthy also like vacation homes that are all-inclusive resorts that they never have to leave, with their own spas, theaters, chef kitchens and recreational areas.
Q. And what’s not? What are some trends or brands that are losing their luster?
A. For homes, Old World splendor, like gold-faucets and French-Imperial furniture is fading. So are dark-paneled walls, wood etc. Wealthy today want bright, spacious and clean look. Properties with big land footprint also big, and McMansions squeezed into small parcels are out. Formal is out, casual-chic is in.
Q. Are the super rich better prepared when disaster strikes? Have they learned their lesson? Or is their affluence built on a house of cards?
A. The borrowing and binging is back much for many of the wealthy – much faster than I expected. The huge stock-market run-up in the past four years has restored their wealth and their over-confidence. While some have permanently downsized, the newly minted rich (and rebounding rich) are spending again like it’s 2007.
Q. And what’s the latest with David & Jackie Siegel, the owners of Versailles, the largest home in America?
A. They are back on top, with David’s company reporting record profits after its restructuring and streamlining. They have also re-started construction on Versailles, which had gone into default and was up for sale. They now own it outright with no mortgage and they expect to be done in time for David’s 80th Birthday in 2016. The house is the ultimate symbol of America’s housing boom, bust and recovery – in extreme.
Q. Tell us about Colin Cowie, celebrity party planner. What are some outrageous requests that he receives from his clients?
A. He’s done parties that cost more than $20 million, with the flowers alone costing up to $500,000. He was asked to do 3 lavish weddings for one couple, including a destination wedding in St. Barth’s.
Q. In one episode, you tour a bombproof underground luxury condo. Is it truly possible for the super rich to survive the apocalypse in style?
A. This speaks to the heightened economic and social fears of the wealthy – they are increasingly worried about social unrest, political instability and the natural disasters. So the bunkered elite have literally built their own luxury bunkers, with an underground pet park, swimming pools, theaters and (of course) pharmacy.
Q. Give our readers the “where and when” they can catch CNBC Series ‘Secret Lives of the Super Rich.’
A. CNBC’s ‘Secret Lives of the Super Rich’ premieres on Wednesday, September 25th at 9PM & 9:30PM ET, featuring eight new half-hour shows with two back-to-back episodes airing each Wednesday for four consecutive weeks.
Thank you, Robert, for chatting with The Pursuitist…