Attendees listened intently and cheered her to the rafters. She got a cool million for a one-hour appearance, which is more than Boris or Blair could ever hope for. And it wasn’t even her specialty — she’s an ecdysiast — but Kim Kardashian was the star speaker at the recent Miami Hedge Fund Week. That tells me all I want to know about hedge-fund managers, and I had a good teacher long ago, one John Bryan of toe-sucking fame.
Luckily, my father was still alive back then, and after my less-than-profitable experience with Bryan, old dad put his foot down. “I have a drawer full of moldering proposals from financial advisors on how to become richer,” he told me. “Stop looking for shortcuts and try being a ship owner.”
After my father’s death in 1989, I actually went looking for a financial advisor. I was warned by friends that advisors are beholden to no one, hence I must be careful. On a whim I chose a childhood friend who was a brewer and whose family, like half of mine, had come to Greece from Germany with King Otto, the first Greek king after the war of independence of 1821. His name was Karolos Fix; the Fix brewery had enjoyed a monopoly for generations.
But this Fix had run the brewery into the ground and left Greece under a cloud. We met up in Gstaad and he invited me to invest in his new fund. However crazy it may have sounded, and despite my wife’s loud protests, I did. The result was a 22 percent annual return for the next fifteen years. Some envious types went as far as to call me lucky, as I was the first to invest with Fix and to advertise his returns. Karolos Fix eventually went down, and I almost went down with him, but not quite (Madoff and all that). Thank God for the wife.
I bring all this up because of a lawsuit by a wealth manager against a couple of Getty women, which is as rare as a lawsuit by a priest against two of his flock for not following his sermon. The two Gettys are out-of-wedlock daughters of Gordon Getty and obviously very rich. I have been a friend of Mark Getty for forty years and know Tara Getty, who owns the most perfect gentleman’s motor yacht, the Blue Bird. There are a lot of other Gettys around, but I don’t know them. (Most are too California for my taste.) The two Getty ladies being sued are hardly my type either. One supports causes such as “reforming the way the justice system handles gendered violence, racial inequities and violence, and transphobia.”
I read about this case in the New Bagelite, whose reporter gave the impression of being very anti-rich, very anti-trust fund and very anti-tax-avoidance. Money managers invest one’s wealth — and I happen to have the best there is. They are young, Latin American and based in Miami. The hack writing about the lawsuit described wealth managers as clergy or consiglieri who tend to get prime seats at weddings and patriarchal deathbeds. And arrange financial matters for out-of-wedlock children. This is all Hollywood — in other words, baloney.
The money manager suing the Getty girls is one Marlena Sonn, whose progressive politics and activism did not interfere with her ambition to strike it rich: a kind of capitalism with socially-responsible investing. If you ask me, it’s total bull. But hypocrisy in activism is nothing new. Sonn and the Getty gals got together with high expectations of changing the unfair state of the world — the Gettys with their lucre, and Sonn with her noggin. Sonn served the gals for eight years as advisor and confidante, then the gals accused Sonn of “unjust enrichment,” and in return Sonn accused the gals of retaliating because of her opposition to a tax-avoidance scheme. Sonn thought to help the gals “expunge the taint” of their moolah. What I’d like to know is, what taint? Since when is Getty money tainted? Oil money does not help youngsters watch porn at eight years of age. It’s Silicon Valley that does that. Getty wealth did not kill retail and mom and pop stores, Bezos did. I could go on.
When Sonn was terminated, she asked for $2.5 million plus a year’s salary. In my experience, when a wealth manager is terminated, all it takes is a single email with no money exchanged. Sonn claims that she started out in wealth management to help people find tax-efficient ways of clearing their conscience. That is the greatest pile of you-know-what I’ve heard in a long lifetime.
And speaking of wealth management, we’ve had some new managers visit us here in Gstaad. One version has it that they were a beautifully dressed young couple. Another describes three men of eastern appearance who whipped their guns out and emptied the Graff jewelry store in seconds flat. The Brazilian manager Sylvinha, who is extremely nice, was threatened in a most ungentlemanly fashion, and the three pistol-wielding crooks left the getaway car in Rougemont, near Taki’s hole. The fuzz put up roadblocks everywhere, but only after the crooks had escaped (I think they were in the middle of lunch). The only good thing to come out of this new type of wealth management is that everyone’s talking about it and not about the price of chalets. We’re finally on the map.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s May 2023 World edition.