A quick update on avarice in America and beyond
The private bankers who handle financial planning for wealthy households like to speak in terms of “asset classes.” Bonds rate as an asset class. So does fine art. And now, say the experts, so do luxury handbags. A Hermes blue crocodile-skin Birkin bag that sells new for $64,000, they posit, amounts to an investment. Like any other asset, the bag may appreciate. And now, says the London-based Borro financial services firm, you can actually monetize your bag while you wait for that appreciation. Borro began lending against luxury bags last December. One fashionista, says Borro’s Paul Aitken, used a vintage Chanel bag to underwrite a new online business. Borro execs do urge handbag investors to be cautious. Beware, they advise, the “myriad fakes and replicas flooding the market.”
Servicing America’s rich can be intensely lucrative. Just ask Ken DeLeon, the Silicon Valley lawyer-turned-realtor. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal named DeLeon the nation’s top realtor. In 2013, his DeLeon Realty sold over $330 million in property, and this year’s sales will likely top that record. To what does DeLeon owe his good fortune? He happens to service the five-mile-square California suburb of Atherton, America’s most expensive zip code. A bedroom community 45 minutes south of San Francisco, Atherton holds only 2,500 homes. The cheapest among them — a two-bedroom bungalow — now lists for $1.5 million. In 2014’s first quarter alone, seven Atherton homes sold for over $10 million. About 80 percent of his clients, DeLeon notes, pay all cash . . .
If you like what you see at the Paris Auto Show, you have to move fast. At this year’s show, earlier this month, Rolls-Royce debuted a $570,000 model with built-in dining tables. Also included: “imaginary city skylines” as decor options, each finished in 500 individual wood veneer pieces. Rolls is only making 20 of these skylined motor cars. They’ve already sold out. Rolls customers, observes company chief Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, typically have at least 12 cars. They have garages, he told reporters in Paris, “like you and me would have wardrobes.” Adds Stefan Bratzel of Germany’s Center of Automotive Management: “The gap is widening between the super rich and the rest.”