Billionaires and the Hamptons, the phrase flows together as natural as the waves that break all along the south shore beaches. Many times on those very beaches are the mansions of the very rich, who visit only when their busy schedules allow it. With private jet services always available, the very wealthy can be in Aspen, Rome, London, L.A. or Miami on their every whim.
Years back, the LIRR was used to ship out the belongings of wealthy families, like Henry Ford II preparing to spend the summer season in the Hamptons. Gentlemen played golf daily on National Golf Links of America, perhaps waving to the infamous Duke of Windsor, who always played there yearly. But times have changed.
I randomly picked 5 billionaires who champion the Hamptons, but the truth is I could have easily listed 20.
1. Michael Bloomberg – Net Worth: $37.2 Billion (Forbes) When in 2010-2011 Michael Bloomberg (73) contracted to acquire (for around $20-plus million) “Ballyshear,” an estate designed by F. Burrill Hoffman Jr. in 1913 for National Golf Links of America founder Charles Blair Macdonald, the former New York City mayor spoke about his actions, saying that after years of quietly declining to be a Hamptons presence, he is now about to make big footprints in the region. But that has been his signature — whatever he does, he seems to do it with a determination to win. He jets all over the world but he can be seen with his children and grandchildren during the Hamptons Classic, every August.
2. Ronald Perelman – Net Worth: $14.5 Billion (Forbes) I first personally saw Mr. Perelman (73) lunching at the Blue Parrot in East Hampton with his daughter when I had a part time job there back in 2006. Now he is part owner of the place, however, his rise to billionaire status goes back to his acquisition of Revlon for over $300 million back in the 1980’s along with a host of other blockbuster deals. He purchased “The Creeks,” a mere 40 room home on Georgica Pond, designed in 1899 by the artists Adele and Albert Herter and has renamed it “Pres Choisis” (Creeks in French.) His annual summer party for the Apollo Theater is attended by the likes of Paul McCartney, Bill Clinton, Jon Bon Jovi and so many others who volunteer to play a few songs while Perelman plays the drums. It is usually the party of the summer in the Hamptons.
3. George Soros – Net Worth: $25.5 Billion (Forbes) Mr. Soros has reportedly made most of his fortune trading currencies. He is now 85 years old. His personal estate is in Southampton Village, however there are numerous mansions owned by the extended Soros families. I interviewed him at East Hampton’s Guild Hall for the 2009 Hamptons Institute and his guest was then newcomer to the financial scene, a Harvard professor named Elizabeth Warren (the current United States Senator from Massachusetts). She was amazing!
4. David Geffen – Net Worth: $6.9 Billion (Forbes) David (72) purchased the Hamptons mansion of former Time Warner CEO Steve Ross from Steve’s widow Courtney Sale Ross in 2014 for a reported $50 million. At the time of Geffen’s East End purchase, the neighboring home/estate was owned by Steven Spielberg, who actually bought the property on the urging of the dynamic Steve Ross (who passed away just before the 2000 presidential election). Geffen’s property is just steps from Georgica Beach. He made his fortune by managing talent, buying and founding and selling record labels, and being one of three founders of DreamWorks. I love the story Jackson Browne tells of calling his old friend/boss Geffen after it was announced that Geffen had amassed more than a billion dollars. Mr. Browne said he asked Geffen, “So how does it feel to have over a billion dollars?”
5. Ralph Lifshitz (Ralph Lauren) – Net Worth: $6.5 Billion (Forbes) With a presence felt all over the Hamptons, Ralph (76) actually had the nickname Ralphampton after he opened four shops, years back in East Hampton Village. That was before his daughter added her candy shop on Main Street. Although he has an oceanfront home in Montauk where he keeps a good part of his Ferrari collection in the summer, Ralph does not have a shop in Bridgehampton, or Sag Harbor. Yet there’s one on Jobs Lane in Southampton Village. Go figure? Ralph has perhaps defined Hamptons wear for the last 30 years. Have you ever been to a summer party, not just in the Hamptons but almost anywhere, where someone isn’t wearing a classic Ralph Lauren polo? Years back, under the previous ownership of the Blue Parrot Tex Mex place in East Hampton Village, it had out of control crowds on summer weekends. Located behind-yet-next to Ralph’s original shop, sometimes he would personally observe the unruliness with an aide with a clipboard, at midnight. He never looked pleased at what was going on with folks using his garden as a facility. However, I must also state Ralph’s behind the scenes donations to local charities and causes. He is usually in East Hampton most of the summer.
This is just a sample of the sort of billionaires that recreate in the Hamptons. Just a peek! The summer season will be here soon enough. I can’t wait to get my sailboat back out on the forever beautiful Gardiner’s Bay!