Fixer For The Rich 09

Even Billionaires Need Help Finding Overpriced Toys

When a Saudi prince needs an Hermès helicopter or a palace once owned by Napoleon, he calls Benedict Wormald, concierge to the filthy rich. If conspicuous consumption is an addiction, he's the world's biggest enabler

In the market for a fully restored 16th-century chateau? Or perhaps you need a new Jacuzzi installed in your private Airbus? Benedict Wormald has you covered. As a “procurement specialist” for ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI)—a class of people who make your typical 1 percenters look like busboys—he specializes in luxury wish fulfillment. Part broker, part designer, part concierge, the 38-year-old Londoner is the principal of Benedict and Company, a firm that can acquire pretty much anything for anyone, anytime, anywhere—if the price is right.

Understandably, Wormald loves his job. "It doesn't feel like work," he says.

Wormald operates in the most rarefied echelons of the personal service industry, providing “bespoke solutions” to first-world problems like “I need a custom dune buggy in camo that looks like a miniature vintage Range Rover, immediately.” (That was an actual request.) His team includes experts in private aircraft, fashion, fine automobiles, big yachts and even bigger houses, and they’re particularly savvy with social media. In fact, according to Wormald, some of his most high-profile clients first found him through Instagram.

“Many members of Middle Eastern royal families actually sit and look at our Instagram every day for about 10 minutes after dinner,” he says.

We spoke to the master facilitator about the absurd realities of working with the absurdly rich. As he puts it, “Until I got into this business, I never could have realized the level of wealth that is actually out there.”

Wormald often gets requests for miniature versions of luxury cars for his clients' children. This $27,000 custom-made DB Racer is a recent example.

OK, so can you explain exactly what is that you do?

A simple way of describing what we do is an umbrella spanning all areas of the ultra-high-net-worth environment. We are the glue that bonds the various aspects of their lives.

It’s quite a difficult mind-set to get into, unless you’re immersed in it, but a good example would be, say you’re looking at a Downton Abbey-like property in the U.K. It may have 10 years of renovation work done with conservation experts so that it’s entirely up to standard, but that’s still not going to be good enough for a typical Middle Eastern royal family. They’ll expect things like under-floor heating and double-glazing and to be able to control the temperature to within a degree. Those are the kinds of strategic things that we can facilitate.

One of Wormald's properties is Tyringham Hall, a $26 million English country estate built in 1792 by Sir John Soane. It also comes with one of the largest pools in Western Europe, at 236 feet.

This isn’t just finding someone a special Rolex or hard-to-get dinner reservation, like a typical concierge would do?

Yes, we tend to be above the day-to-day stuff. The bulk of our work is around property and aircraft and yachts. We do get requests to do small fixing, such as obtaining Harry Styles’ autograph for a daughter’s Christmas present, but that was just a favor. Recently, our work has been retained by families with three or four generations of wealth, and they have extremely sophisticated back-office functions. They’re run almost like hedge funds, so we search for properties that are suitable investments for them. They’ll buy without even seeing the place, as long as we advise them that it is the right thing to do.

Wormald buys, customizes and restores Aston Martins, like this redone DB5 worth $956,000.

If I were a billionaire, what properties would you recommend right now?

We have what is probably the most expensive house in London at the moment, which is about 250 million euros. We have a palace on Lake Geneva that was built for Josephine by Napoleon—that’s about 400 million euros. Recently, we also did some work on the most expensive street in the world, which is Cornwall Terrace in London. There were three remaining properties left to be sold at around 65 million, 85 million and 135 million euros, and one individual bought all three and knocked them into one.

You don’t see transactions like these in the press. You can’t advertise them anywhere because you’re pursuing only around four or five groups of people in the world that can write a check for that kind of money.

Wormald recently found this $150,000 Patek Philippe 5970R for a client. "Just last night, I had a query on a $475,000 Patek to the Middle East, one of only five ever made and just released," he says.

What are some of the craziest requests you’ve ever gotten?

One hundred Rolex watches in a single order. Actually, 100 custom Rolex Daytonas, which are on an eight-year waiting list. We also just did a collection for a wealthy Middle Eastern family that wanted a whole inventory of dream cars, from James Bond’s Aston Martin right down to classic Ferraris.

Another unusual brief was for a client whose existing yacht had sadly sunk with her beloved collection of Louis Vuitton soft luggage on board. The luggage was of great sentimental value, and she wanted a new piece of furniture to incorporate the pieces recovered from the bottom of the sea. The luggage was then stripped and cleaned and made into a stunning coffee table that now takes pride of place on their replacement yacht.

Wormald can customize the interior of your personal jet right down to the carpeting, like this recently outfitted Boeing 737, available for $51.5 million and $87 million, depending on the model and specifications.
(Ed Turner)

Toys for grownups.

We get lots of requests for children, too. We do a lot of miniature children’s cars that are about one-third scale, and they go up to 80 miles an hour. In the Middle East, some clients have racetracks, and they’ll have a fleet of these things. You’ll even see fully grown men racing around in these cars with their robes flowing out. One of our Mexican clients ordered a classic Jaguar convertible from the 1940s in bright yellow, which is a color they didn’t even do in the original.

Wormald can hook you up with this $190 million Alfa Nero Mega Yacht, one of the world's largest at 269 feet. You can also charter it for $1.2 million per week.

Why do these people use you when they can just walk into a car dealership or Barney’s and buy whatever they want?

Well, much of what we do is for families that may have all the things in the world, but they’re not necessarily going to get what they want through an existing brand. For example, we had a princess who wanted some traveling trunks, but she wanted something ultra-light and modular so that she could just hop on the train to Paris or Nice, or travel to Monaco. We worked with a Formula One company that had all of the proprietary carbon-fiber technology to make that product, and we created a trunk that is literally featherweight, but it’s still impossible to break into.

And then another princess made a special request for prayer beads that they use in Islam. You don’t tend to find them in very lavish finishes, but she asked if we could do something interesting for her. So we procured antique pearls from when the Arab Emirates deal was struck in in 1971, and made her something beautiful.

It’s all about finding a solution to the client’s problem. What we typically see with our clients is that they’ve owned all the top-level brands and designers, and they’re tired of it. They want something unique and highly customized.

There's no more stylish airlift to one's yacht than this Eurocopter EC135 Hermes Helicopter for $7 million, part of Wormald's stable.

Who’s a typical client?

We’ve got a broad cross section. Some of the more exciting things that we do come from our clients in Mexico. I’ll get a message saying “I’d like to buy 30,000 pounds worth of children’s toy cars.” I mean that’s almost more crazy than a billion dollar yacht! We also get some clients from England who are mostly bankers driven by bonus time, and then we have a few Russian clients who are globally known, but a huge chunk of the work we do is out of the Middle East.

The Classic Nero Yacht was inspired by a series of boats commissioned by J.P. Morgan. Wormald arranges getaways for clients on this humble vessel for around $385,000 per week.

Like Saudi princes?

The Saudi royals have tens of trillions of dollars of wealth amongst their family, and the families we support out the Emirates typically have around $150 billion. These are families that can write a check to buy Microsoft outright. It’s an entirely different world.

For example, a property in Saudi Arabia might be around $2 billion. For a house. Another Middle Eastern client was recently telling me that he had a TV built and the sports ticker at the bottom of the screen was taller than him at 6-foot-4. I think it was around 300 inches.

"We have workshops that can make pretty much anything," says Wormald of this $23,000 bespoke Burchell's zebra chair created for a client. "We even made a stunning Makassar ebony desk with a blood-red leather top that lets the client scan his iris or thumbprint, so that his watch collection rises electronically from a secure compartment."

So these people really find you through Instagram?

One of our clients is this guy who just completed the largest yacht in the world. It’s around $700 million, and he found us through Instagram. These guys are very social media savvy. You would not believe it. A client may be a leader of a Middle Eastern royal family with a government position, and he will still contact your through Instagram or Facebook. Just a few weeks ago, the man with the most purchasing power in the world at the moment—we’re talking $500 million a day—sent me a private Instagram message saying, “Would you like to meet?” You would expect them to reach out through handlers or PR, but I think this is the way a lot of these people want to live. They want to be normal.

"This was a very cool ‘runabout’ in the 1960s used by Onassis, Yul Brynner, the Kennedys," he says of this $75,000 Fiat Jolly Ghia. We did a candy pink one for an Arab prince's sister at university!"

That’s unexpected.

Well, it’s because they really have nothing to prove. If you have a half-billion dollar yacht at your beck and call in Monaco, you really don’t need to be driven around in a Rolls-Royce to reiterate that point. A lot of our clients wear $50 watches, and $10 sunglasses and Converse trainers. We have a multibillion dollar client who drives a Mini. It’s about smart money, not just bright and shiny things.

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