February 18, 2023
Attendees listened intently and cheered her to the rafters. She got a cool million for an hour-long speech, which is more than Boris or Blair could ever hope for. And it wasn’t even her specialty—she’s an ecdysiast—but during the recent Hedge Fund Week in Miami, Kim Kardashian was the star speaker. It tells me all I want to know about hedge fund managers, as I had a good teacher long ago, one John Bryan of toe-sucking fame.
Luckily my father was still alive back then, and after Bryan had taken me to the cleaners, old dad put his foot down. “I have a drawer full of moldering proposals on how to become richer from financial advisers,” he told me, “stop looking for shortcuts and try being a shipowner.” After my father’s death on July 14, 1989, I actually went looking for a financial adviser, warned by friends that advisers are beholden to no one, hence I had to 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, and the Fix brewery enjoyed a monopoly for generations.
Fix had run the brewery to 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 sound, and over my wife’s loud protests, I did. The result was 22 percent annual returns for the next fifteen years. Some envious types went so 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’ve been a friend of Mark Getty for forty years, and I know Tara Getty, who owns the most perfect gentleman’s motor yacht, the Bluebird. There are a lot of Gettys around, but I don’t know them. (Most of them are too California for my taste.) The two Getty ladies being sued are hardly my type either. They support causes like “racial inequities and bias, gendered violence, and trans phobia.”
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, bulls—.
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 bulls—, but hypocrisy in activism is nothing new. Sonn and the Getty gals got together with high expectations to change the unfair state of the world, the Gettys with their lucre, Sonn with her noggin. Sonn served the gals for eight years as adviser and confidante, then the gals accused Sonn of “unjust enrichment” and in return Sonn accused the gals of retaliating over her opposition to a tax avoidance scheme. Sonn thought to help the gals “expunge the taint” of their moola. What I’d like to know is, what taint? Since when is Getty money tainted? Oil money does not help youngsters watch porn at 8 years of age, Silicon Valley does. 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.” This is the greatest pile of you-know-what I’ve heard yet over my long lifetime.
And speaking of wealth management, we’ve had some new managers visit us here in Gstaad. The first version was that they were a beautifully dressed young couple. The latter one described three men of Eastern appearance who whipped their guns out and emptied the Graff jewelry store in seconds flat. Sylvinia, the Brazilian manager who is extremely nice, was threatened in a most ungentlemanly fashion, and the three pistol-wheeling 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.