3 August: Hedgie holidays; Summer sartorial sandpits
Managing money is not an easy option. My friend Entrepreneur Eddie recently regaled me with an unedifying tale. He was forced to harangue a top bank chief about the pathetic underperformance of his portfolio. Eddie thundered: “I told him, I didn’t give you my hard-earned wealth just to stand still.” When it comes to our own money, most of us are super-demanding. We turn from amiable acquaintances into snarling fiends. If we are paying a hedge fund manager the dreaded 2 and 20, we expect dazzling returns. So I’ve often wondered if hedgies take summer holidays. Or do they sweat it out in the office manacled to their Bloomberg screens?
The answer is that hedgies do holiday. There’s no point being an über-competitive squillionaire if you can’t indulge in conspicuous consumption. And then there’s the high maintenance hedgette (a hedgie wife) droning on about “quality family time”. Divorce is a cataclysmic catacomb for most wealthy men so it is important to pacify the little woman. Anyway in this BlackBerry era: ‘Even when you’re not at work, you can work,’ as one hedgie put it
Hedgie holidays fall into two broad categories: the sedate and the sexy. Aspiring lord of the manor types do the sedate thing. Think impressive castle in Scotland, grandiose chateau in Burgundy or the perfect villa in Tuscany. Lots of land and lots of staff. The wife will say glibly: “Oh it’s fabulous, we have really good childcare: two nannies actually. So I can do the museums in Florence with girlfriends. And in the evenings, we catch up on opera, open-air.” The conservative hedge fund manager will have a “war room” equipped with state of the art technology so that he can keep in touch at all times.
Hangers-on are the accoutrement du jour of the hedgehog set. Hogs tend to move in packs – friends coming and going by Learjet or joining the yacht at various Eurotrash watering holes, (Saint-Tropez, Portofino or Marbella). Yachts are a favourite toy because of the privacy factor and the ability to explore the unusual. Desirable destinations are Croatia, Turkey and the Greek islands (“Oh, please, Greece is so 20th century,’ one hog hurrumphed).
The American hedgehog with classical leanings (think Ralph Lauren advertisements but for real) will ricochet between the office in Greenwich, Connecticut, and the family at the summer house in Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, or the Hamptons. Possession of your own island is acceptable as well: reassuringly reclusive and exclusive. Louis Bacon, the granddaddy of all hedgehogs, owns the 450-acre Robins Island off the New York coast. Although Bacon has never given a press interview, and staff allegedly sign confidentiality agreements, tales of hunting parties trickle out. The killing fields: large men chasing small birds. As I’m quite small myself, I would have to decline a Bacon invitation in case there was a Dick Cheney-type incident.
The nice thing about American hedgies is their conviviality. “I’m basically running an inn,” chortled one with a large house in Southampton, Long Island. “This weekend, we have nine house guests.” One of her neighbours, Steven Spielberg, regularly has 50 friends for dinner.
But then there is the racier pack who like life more spicy. “When I’m around them,” a source sighed, “I feel I’ve lived an unlived life.” It’s fun in the fast lane fuelled by drink, drugs and lashings of cash. “I’m talking about cocaine and orgies,” my source insisted. ‘A night in South Beach, Miami, then a Bedouin evening in Marrakesh and on to Angkor Wat and Luang Prabang –just because we can and, hey, life is short.’
The louche hedgie relies on his BlackBerry to keep in touch – if it works in the current exotic destination, and if he is up to looking at it. But all this living high on the hog can be abruptly curtailed. Summer fireworks occur with unerring regularity and tranquil markets suddenly explode. Russia defaulted on its domestic short-term debt in August, Hurricane Katrina hit last August. Will anything spoil the hedgie holiday this month, I wonder?
And finally, summer sartorial sandpits. The sweltering July heat in central London has not been kind to my fellow Englishmen. “We just can’t cope with it, luv, can we?” a red-faced, rotund cabbie moaned, fanning himself despondently with a copy of the News of the World. Smug in my diaphanous sundress and charming straw hat, I was tempted to demur but decided the journey down to Canary Wharf was too lengthy for an “atmosphere”. The London Underground is unusable in the heatwave unless there is absolutely no alternative. Modern-day Marie Antoinettes (normally hedge fund wives) trill: “Let them take the Tube,” as they sink into their air-conditioned limousines.
I am saddened, though, by my fellow citizens’ lack of summer style. A friend who sighted the curvaceous chef Nigella Lawson and her husband, art collector Charles Saatchi, stammered: “She looked rather large in a black kaftan and he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts.” One longs to say in the fashion of my former headmistress: “Do try to make an effort.” Shorts are rarely flattering to either men or women. And cut-off, fraying shorts teamed with a grimy vest and acres of flabby, pallid flesh mark the end of civilization as we know it. Beach attire, where less is always more, is unacceptable in the city.
Please, chinos, polo shirt and Gucci loafers for men. Summer frocks, preferably designer or vintage, with Manolo flats for women. Otherwise go naked – there is no halfway house.
Have a wonderful summer break. The Abigail with attitude column is itself taking a holiday. The next column will appear on Thursday 31 August.