Wish You Were Here: Geoffrey Bradfield

Geoffrey Bradfield reports on mogul manoeuvres


 Palm Beach is boasting two enormous anonymous sales of properties on Billionaires Row, each fetching in the vicinity of $81 million.

So much of our life, at present, seems to be consumed by surging energy costs. And as I like to begin and end this column with a quip from a rascal or a tycoon, it seems rather apt to apply the success formula of the notorious tightwad John Paul Getty: “Rise early, work hard, strike oil.”

Gushing oil continues to fuel the unstoppable Emirates and Dubai has yet another dream city about to emerge. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, it is an island project in the form of a perfect gigantic square on the water’s edge. Encompassing six-and-a-half square miles, it is a power grid of densely packed towers anchored by a 44-story glass sphere. Shades of a neo-Roman lifestyle come to mind, with white keffiyehs in lieu of togas.

Proving once again that size does, in fact, matter, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s spectacular 525-foot yacht, the Dubai, will not be the world’s largest boat afloat for long. The appropriately named Eclipse measuring in at 531.5 feet will usurp this title, if only by six-and-a-half feet, when it sails out of the Blohm + Voss shipyards later this fall.

An eternal real estate game of “Snakes and Ladders” has insightful Philip A. Falcone, director of Harbinger Capital Partners, buying up more of 67th Street. He has just acquired Bob Guccione’s former mansion, paying just shy of $50 million to complement his current $40 million townhouse down the block.

I have nothing but admiration at the sheer spunk of these moguls as they maneuver treacherous financial catwalks. Just a fortnight after closing on his purchase of two combined apartments in the Plaza for $28 million, James Cayne’s stake in Bear Stearns, once worth more than $1 billion, took a massive tumble leaving him with pocket change of $61 million after the sale of his shares.

Whilst the middle class suffers mortgage foreclosures, the upper echelon is far from immune. Michael Jackson has been scrambling to come up with $24.5 million to save his beloved Neverland Ranch. And cash-strapped fashion plate Veronica Hearst, widow of the late Randolph Hearst, has been forced to hand over the keys to her oceanfront Florida mansion, facing foreclosure.

Is it “art anxiety” or simply a necessity when one of the world’s most stupendous art collectors, with a collection valued at $1 billion, needs to unload a chunk of inventory to meet estate taxes? The legendary dealer Ileana Sonnabend’s heirs have already raised $600 million in private sales. It appears that Larry Gagosian, Giraud, Pissarro, and Segalot were eager to help out. And all of this happened under the searing eye of Uncle Sam.

Even though our weather has made for a reluctant spring, it hasn’t deterred the social scene from forging ahead in full color. With one spectacular event after another, New York’s white knights-always ready

to save a sinking city or restore an 18th century fountain-reach into their deep pockets time after time.

This year’s Venetian Heritage gala took place at the St. Regis with a glittering throng of philanthropists. The seamless evening was chaired by HRH Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg and HSH Prince Pierre d’Arenberg. Guests included Anne Bass, Mario Buatta, Kenneth Jay Lane, Judy and Alfred Taubman, Ann Nitze, and Pierre Durand, while I was fortunate enough to have the beautiful Sharon Handler on my arm.

Barbara de Portago, following in the footsteps of her indefatigable mother, Florence Van der Kemp, hosted the Versailles Foundation’s banquet at the Pierre in the presence of HRH Prince Charles-Philippe d’Orleans. I found myself enviably seated between the Prince’s fiancée, Diana, Duchess of Cadaval, and Aileen Mehle (aka Suzy). This glamorous evening, heralded by the Valley Forge Military Academy Cadets, included Sir Robert and Lady Castellano, Robert Couturier, Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzales-Falla, Christopher Hyland, and the Fuller Foundation scion, who underwrote the occasion. The magnanimous Gillian Spreckels Fuller recently held a dinner in her lavish apartment, her own private “Versailles.” Forty guests sat down to a sumptuous feast in her newly installed “Hall of Mirrors,” created by Brian Stewart. One felt the only thing missing was the ghost of the Sun King.

Brasserie Cognac, a chic new restaurant on the West Side, opened with fashion and fanfare. Welcomed by Richard Turley and Susan Gutfreund, an A-List of glamour, wealth, and intellect saluted the designer Ralph Rucci, including Anne Slater, Richard Johnson, Paul Morrissey, Prince Federico Pignatelli, Eric Villency, and Tara and Michael Rockefeller. Absolutely no one was inclined to leave. The food was delectable and our table was a riot with Sessa Johnson and Amy Fine Collins telling all.

Palm Beach is boasting two enormous anonymous sales of properties on Billionaires Row, each fetching in the vicinity of $81 million. More conspicuous, on this isle of paradise, the wedding of Ivana and Rossano at Mar-A-Lago. As reported by the Palm Beach Daily News, the nuptials were conducted with a Trump extravaganza, replete with “the groom, arms raised above his head, bounding down the stairs to the theme from Rocky.” A change from ye olde “Oh, Love Divine.” 300 guests were in attendance to cheer on the starstruck couple.

Whilst our society is at play, an act of aggression is taking place. Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to annex a sprawling chunk of the Arctic so he can tap its vast oil, gas, and mineral wealth potential. As Getty said, “Oil is like a wild animal. Whoever captures it has it.” En garde, America.