April 15, 2007

New York— Larry Ellison, the chief executive of the software giant Oracle and the world’s 11th richest man, according to Forbes magazine, is not imbued by an ounce of grace or elementary good manners. He has constructed a basketball court on board his megayacht, the latter a monstrosity which pollutes more than a battleship and serves no other purpose than as a penile extension to its owner. He’s also so cheap he shares another megayacht with David Geffen, the diminutive bald multi-billionaire who is trying to rebuild the beachfront of Malibu and turn it into a private beachcomber billionaire paradise.

Not a bad idea when you think of it, until you see what the billionaires look like. Geffen, a pro-gay polemicist, simply looks awful: short, bald, and with a professional deformation around the mouth. Ellison looks worse.  Satan-like, with a goatee his own mother would puke over, he also fancies himself a sailor and is challenging for the America’s Cup. (More about that later).  The next billionaire down the road in Malibu is Terry Semel, the chief executive of Yahoo, and a man I briefly met in Nick Simunek’s house in Palm Beach about five years ago. He was very short, squat and very hairy, and had trouble holding his glass because his fingers were so short and stubby. At first I mistook him for a rodent exterminator—Palm Beach is full of rats and Terry Simunek is known for giving odd jobs to poor souls—but then I realised who he was. Fortunately he was wearing a tee shirt so although I threw up the hors d’oeuvres, I was fine after he left.

So far so bad. Ellison, Geffen, Semel, the three mouseketeers followed by yet another beachcomber billionaire, Jeffrey Katzenberg. He is a film tycoon and close associate of Geffen’s. Believe it or not, I’ve also met him for a brief moment while he was lunching with Graydon Carter at the Four Seasons. I am a friend of Graydon’s and thought he was alone so I went over and sat down with him. On top of Katzenberg—who is so small I had failed to notice him. He didn’t complain too much; he’s probably used to it by now.  Katzenberg makes the fourth billionaire mouseketeer vying to control Malibu’s beach, a beachfront, incidentally, I find rather pathetic when compared to anything in Cephalonia, but then Cephalonia is not twenty-five miles from Beverly Hills.

A restaurant owner who is moving because of the rising rents of Malibu calls the place the new Hamptons. Poor Hamptons. Once upon a time they were pristine, Waspy places lined with beautiful lawns, trimmed hedges and discreet houses. Now that Wall Street has taken over, the Wasps have moved to the wrong side of the tracks—literally—and the pigs have taken over. Sixty-room monstrosities are not unusual, and the famous potato fields of the Hamptons are now a distant memory. But the cemetery is still there, and the last time I looked there were no cranes about to dig it up. But back to Malibu and the America’s Cup.
Ellison got very close to winning it last time. It takes big bucks and he sure has them. The only thing I have against him—except for his inane vulgarity—is the fact the rules have been changed. Once upon a time, when my daddy was hoping to challenge the New York Yacht Club for the cup, one could only use indigenous boats and crews.  No longer. The winning Alinghi team of the last cup four years ago was mostly New Zealanders, including the skipper. The
winner, Ernesto Bertarelli is Swiss—with a very cute English wife. He won it for good old Helvetia. But did he really? I’d say New Zealand was the true winner.

The same applies to Ellison. I don’t know what crews he’s using but when he carries off the cup—which he could—he will be in the class of polo team “patrons” who hire three professional Argies to gallop up and down while he canters, and then gets to go home with the cup and tell his mistress he won it. Briggs Cunnigham, Bob Mosbacher, the great Dennis Conner, they all won the cup, being real skippers. The billionaires of today are simply along for the
ride. Mind you, without their moolah there would be no boats or challengers, but sailors they are not.  In Malibu, the mayor is in a hard spot because although he wants to keep the Old World charm, it is hard to resist billionaires pounding down on you. For example: $400,000 was pledged for the local school district to construct a community centre on its site.  This was pledged by the property owner who sold his stake to Ellison. But Ellison wants to build a restaurant, not a community centre. The mayor is torn between his conscience and big bucks. Not a problem as far as I’m concerned. The latter will win hands down.

One thing is for sure. I will be on board my non-polluting sailing boat this summer off Valencia rooting for Ellison’s boat to be demasted and for him to be swept overboard while reading the Wall Street Journal.

—The Spectator.


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