From the Editor - Spear's Magazine

From the Editor

This edition of Spear’s Wealth Management Survey is our 10th birthday issue. When I founded the magazine at our old offices above a kebab shop in Notting Hill Gate back in 2005, the world was a very different place.

This edition of Spear’s Wealth Management Survey is our 10th birthday issue. When I founded the magazine at our old offices above a kebab shop in Notting Hill Gate back in 2005, the world was a very different place.

For a start, it was awash with money; and London – in particular Mayfair’s Hedge Row, which was satirically captured with Hogarthian relish by artist Adam Dant on the cover of Issue 3 – was where the financial and social action was.

Back in the ‘Greed-is-Good’ 1980s of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, it was New York that was the irresistible destination of those who insisted on being where things were happening. Nobody is quite sure when the zeitgeist moved to London (9/11 was certainly a factor) but what is certain is that by the time the first pilot issue of Spear’s WMS arrived through the letterboxes of the 15,000 wealthy and worldly members of the Annabel’s group of clubs in July 2005, London had seized the financial crown away from New York.

Suddenly billionaires like Roman Abramovich and Lakshmi Mittal became household names, and hedge-fund kings and property barons became our new financial rock stars. Of course, London has long played host to the very rich. But this new 21st-century wealth revolution – with fortunes most likely made from property, finance, hedge funds, private equity, telecoms, internet, steel, gas, oil, or on-line gambling – was different in that, in the past, the numbers of super-rich – excluding landowners – were a relatively small gang.

Far from being eccentric reclusives such as Howard Hughes or Sir Paul Getty, or charismatic tycoons such as Kerry Packer or Sir James Goldsmith, they were now everywhere. And when you have a new community you also create the need for a magazine that understands the specific needs and issues facing that community.

Spear’s WMS began its life as a supplement to the Annabel’s Magazine which we published after Robin Birley and his sister India-Jane took over the running of the Annabel’s clubs in 2004 from their perfectionist father, Mark Birley.

The Birley clubs – including Annabel’s, Harry’s Bar, George and Mark’s Club – had become the favoured private members’ clubs of the new class of international super-rich who were invading London and making it the world stage for the new global community of ultra-high-net-worths (UHNWs). In short, the group’s members were perfect guinea pigs for a new wealth management magazine that aimed to become the New Yorker of personal finance titles.

The FT was too mass-market to talk directly to this new wealthy audience, whose financial and personal needs were uniquely different. I knew that somebody like Sir Philip Green is not going to swing by W.H. Smith to buy a personal finance magazine to advise him on the top five off-shore tax and trust lawyers or who to draw up a confidentiality agreement for the new skipper of his Monaco boat.

I first realised that we were onto something when we sent out the pilot issue of Spear’s WMS in the summer of 2005 and I got a call from a very wealthy and stressed out Annabel’s member when I picked up the phone in the office at 9am.

‘My housekeeper has mislaid my copy of your new wealth magazine,’ he said. ‘I was just reading a very interesting article by lawyer Sandra Davis about why not to get divorced in London, and the advantages of ‘forum shopping’. Can I send round my driver to pick up a new copy? Make that six, as I want my friends to read it too.’ Half an hour later, the alleyway outside my office was thick with German exhaust fumes as a sleek Mercedes S class pulled up and his chauffeur came to collect the requested extra copies.

Realising there was demand for this sort of valuable information, I decided to launch Spear’s as a stand alone title. Whilst America had long had a tradition of financial magazines such as Forbes, Worth or Fortune, Europe never had such a culture. So, from our humble beginnings above that kebab shop in Notting Hill, we set about creating a magazine for the new European tribal community of ultra-rich (or, at least, they were then).

Our ambition was to combine witty and engaging writing with knowledge and essential information about the high-net-worth universe that you could not get anywhere else. We wanted to focus on the real needs of the new global monied class with regard to their often complex and dysfunctional financial affairs, lifestyle and personal issues – from how to choose the right pre-nup lawyer if you think your daughter is marrying a fortune hunting cad to what to do if you think the UK tax authorities have obtained stolen details of that numbered account with LGT in Liechtenstein.

Ten issues on, I am proud of what we and my team have achieved  – in particular recently launching Spear’s WMS in Russia where the magazine was introduced at the Moscow party by Russia’s former finance minister.  We have won several awards, and have been called the ‘house journal of the indelibly rich’ by the Sunday Times, and a ‘must read for the super-rich’ by the Independent.

But what a different wealth landscape we face today. It’s not just billionaires like Abramovich or Mittal whose wealth has been heavily mauled by the credit crunch, it is almost everybody I know. From drowning in money, London is now probably laden with more debt than any other city in the world. Property prices in the best streets are in free fall and top restaurants are often empty by 10pm – always a bad sign.

I had lunch the other day at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley Hotel with a respected and debonair hedge-fund executive and he didn’t so much as wince as he sat down and I announced: ‘We’re having the set menu’. Five minutes later, he told me he was now taking the bus to work in Mayfair every day and flashed me his Oyster card. The days of his Addison Lee car picking him up from outside his Kensington house were over. ‘And I couldn’t be happier,’ he added.

‘Suddenly, the amount of money I earn, or make, or have in my bank account, doesn’t matter so much anymore. I almost want my firm to blow up so that I can live another life altogether – maybe I’ll move to a gatehouse in Devon and run a farm shop or write. I want a life now where money isn’t the only way of keeping the score.’

This uncharted new financial wasteland has produced new challenges and never before, in our view, has it been more important to have the right financial advice. We have always liked to think of Spear’s WMS as giving essential life support to our HNW readers and this has never been more true than today.

Ten issues on, we are now in the wealth-protection business. Happy Christmas to all our readers, rich and poorer, wherever you are reading this – from a yacht in St Bart’s to the top of a London bus.



 

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