Friday, December 07, 2007

Tired of Slumming

The superrich have long had various places—clubs, jets, resorts and communities—where they could temporarily retreat from the rest of the world. But now the members-only phenomenon is exploding into a whole way of life, encompassing everything from private-banking coalitions to invitation-only health clinics. With security concerns growing and Internet gossip capable of trashing global reputations in an instant, those with money are increasingly locking their entire lives behind closed doors. Rather than attend media-heavy events, they arrange concerts, fashion shows and art exhibitions in their own homes. They shop afterhours and have their neighbors (and potential friends) vetted for class and cash. In essence, it's a return to the way the wealthy lived before the hippie ethic of the 1960s made it cool to mingle with other classes. "The very rich don't want to be in restaurants where they might be sitting next to a tourist," says William Cash, editor of Spear's Wealth Management Survey, a European magazine for multimillionaires.

The rich definitely do not want to live among the masses. More gated communities are on the rise, including Dubai's man-made World islands and Moscow's new $3 billion Rublyovo-Arkhangelskoye development. At London's new ultra-exclusive address, 1 Hyde Park, more than 700 applicants have registered to pay as much as $41.2 million for one of just 80 apartments—even though the complex is not set to open until 2010. "They dine privately, shop privately, view art privately; everything is private, private, private," says Ahlya Fateh, managing editor of Britain's upper-class lifestyle magazine Tatler. "These people literally never leave the confines of [exclusive London postcode] SW3 unless they're in a helicopter or blacked-out Humvee entourage."

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