Too Legit To Quit – Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze

Jim Clark, the founder of Netscape and brain behind a slew of other innovative computer platforms, helped make Silicon Valley synonymous with bleeding edge technology and economic might. His wife Kristy Hinze Clark took the Australian fashion world by storm when at 14 she became the youngest model to sign a contract with Australian Vogue.

 Jim has made hefty market bets as well, with a reported $40 million invested in Facebook and $30 million in Twitter despite qualms about social media’s long-term viability.


Despite impressive roots far from the East End, the couple—married on March 22, 2009 in the British Virgin Islands—have happily settled down in one of the Hamptons’ finest trophy properties: a 12-bedroom, 18,000-square-foot traditional country home on a prime Southampton street close to town and water. The house was built nearly a century ago; the Clarks moved in this May. A month later Kristy, who gave birth to the couple’s daughter Dylan in September 2011, led Haute Living on a tour of the immaculate 9-acre grounds—complete with a paddleball and grass tennis court, soccer field, outdoor pool and fountain—and spoke to us about her Hamptons life.

“We’re really happy here,” she says. “Who wouldn’t be? It’s certainly gorgeous—there’s a reason everyone comes here. The Hamptons are special, beautiful. The area has its own different light.” It’s also considerably cooler between the towering hedgerows than on the city asphalt, a fact not lost on Kristy last summer when she was in her third trimester. “A ten degree difference,” she says, “is perfect while you’re huge.”

Not that Kristy has anything against Manhattan. She moved there in 1998, and met Jim through mutual friends at Downtown Cipriani one sunny afternoon. “We sort of didn’t mean to, but started seeing each other,” she says. “It was a funny thing, not exactly expected of either of us.” It was New York’s educational opportunities and intellectual energy that prompted the Clarks to raise Dylan in the area, and the fresh air and open space of the South Fork—and those lush grounds—that drew them to Southampton, where Dylan could “be a kid and fall over without grazing herself.”

Kristy knows the benefits of a childhood spent with room to roam: she grew up on a farm in Queensland, Australia. Her modeling career took off early, eventually flourishing through top agencies Ford and Elite, and landing her in Sports Illustrated and on the Australian covers of Vogue and GQ. She’s distanced herself from modeling, saying, “the industry has changed.” (Should Dylan pursue a career in the field one day, her mother “wouldn’t dissuade her so long as she already had a degree.”)

But Kristy is transferring some of the skills she honed with designers and on the catwalk to Legitimutt, an upmarket dog accessory line she started with Neal Hamil, who has shepherded her modeling career for nearly twenty years. She looks for “big trends, nylon and color-blocking and things like that” and whips them into canine shape for goods ranging from winter coats (which stray from the ubiquitous “puffer jackets”) to warm weather polos to collars.

Kristy realizes how improbably large the luxury dog market has become, and is setting her product apart from the competition by manufacturing in America, diligently steering the creative and business facets of the brand, and remaining focused for now on the core clothing and accessories product rather than branching out into doggie spas, doggie gyms, doggie five-star hotels or other entries in the furry niche industry.

There’s a personal bent to Legitimutt that also distinguishes the brand. The Clarks have three schnauzers, their names indebted to Hollywood: Ava (as in Gardner) and her brother (Marlon) Brando, both three-years-old, and Eva’s one-year-old son Elwood (as in the Blues Brother). Inspired by their doting owner—Kristy says she has one baby, Dylan, and “three kids”—or perhaps their show business namesakes, the dogs are not only Kristy’s muses but also the faces of Legitimutt in its cheeky advertisements.

When not at work on Legitimutt or zoned in, The Social Network style, on computer coding the Clarks support an array of philanthropic causes. Much of Jim’s munificence has benefited Stanford, his springboard to the summit of the tech industry (he left an associate professorship there in 1982 to found computing solutions manufacturer and 3-D graphics forerunner Silicon Graphics, Inc. with seven graduate students). He pledged $150 million to Stanford in 1999, then the largest gift in the university’s history since the founding grant. (Jim subsequently suspended $60 million of that payment in protest of President Bush’s stem cell research policies). The Clark Center, particularly its Bio-X Program, became a hub of “radical” cross-disciplinary research in 2003.

Jim has made hefty market bets as well, with a reported $40 million invested in Facebook and $30 million in Twitter despite qualms about social media’s long-term viability. On the matter of Facebook’s floundering initial public offering, Jim wrote in an email that he “would have kept the number of shares as originally planned, kept the price lower, and not have let Goldman Sachs, one of the underwriters, sell their holdings.” (Netscape enjoyed near-record first day gains during its I.P.O. in 1995.) “Social media companies are a gold rush today, and time will tell if they survive,” he says. “I have no use for them, and can’t see why people waste time on them. I much prefer physical meeting with true friends, so have never used the service. I think 10 years from now they will not be important.”

On the subject of old-fashioned non-digital communication, the couple has lent vocal support to the Perlman Music Program, a training ground for fledgling classical musicians based in Shelter Island. “The students represent some of the world’s best talent,” writes Jim. “Once I saw what they were doing, I became a big supporter. I think we need more of this type of music, because no other kind can compare in historical significance. The Beatles were great, but Beethoven and Mozart were phenomenal. Both will be remembered for centuries, but it will always be clear which were most in touch with the soul of humanity.”

The Clarks also champion environmental and animal rights organizations: Jim is a board member of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s national council, and executive produced The Cove, the Academy Award-winning 2009 documentary that exposed the brutality of Japan’s dolphin hunting culture.

The Clark’s lifestyle demands globetrotting. Indeed, in the past the two have spent up to four months of the year at sea aboard Athena and Hanuman, their 300- and 140-foot yachts. Kristy says she’d “go gray just thinking” about Dylan traversing the ocean, and is happy to set down more permanent roots. Those include Il Palmetto, the classic Palm Beach estate Jim bought in 1999, where the Clarks spend most of their time outside Southampton. (Although the Clarks sold their penthouse in The Setai on South Beach last year, Kristy plans to open the first freestanding Legitimutt store and showroom in Miami this summer.)

The water is never far, even in the absence of round-the-world sailing expeditions. Kristy says that parts of the Hamptons remind her of Sydney, if not her more rugged Queensland home. She’s particularly fond of Coopers Beach (while growing up in swimming-mad Australia, the backstroker shared lane space with the likes of Ian Thorpe). Should Dylan follow in those aquatic footsteps, she’ll have an indoor and outdoor pool in which to train. But for now, the Clarks—dad, mom, baby and kids—are happy to leave their marks on Southampton land.