Mo’ money, mo’ problems

Mark Zuckerberg © Getty images
Problems with the neighbours? Follow Zuckerberg’s lead and buy them out

It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to relax with their money.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote that “the very rich are different from you and me… they have more money”. They differ in other ways too. They seem more fearful for a start. This week we read that the American rich “are spending more than ever on private security because of mounting anxiety over terrorist attacks, mass shootings and the toxic character of political debate”.

Indeed, as Ben Hoyle in The Times continues, “Pinkerton, the private security and detective agency, reported demand for its services had risen steeply”, despite the fact it charges up to $10,000 a day for a driver.

Real fat cats may prefer something a bit more elaborate, such as a life upon the ocean blue. The latest must-have accessory for the filthy rich is a specially designed superyacht, including one bespoke £60m model that “looks like an invisible-to-radar military vessel”, says John Arlidge in the Evening Standard.

Those who want an even lower profile, both figuratively and literally, might be interested in a submarine. Submersible brand Triton recently teamed up with Aston Martin to create a futuristic-looking £4m craft. 

Buy out the neighbours

Meanwhile, back on dry land, “the hottest trend in London property these days is ‘the anonymous home’”. New developments in Chelsea “can fetch as much as £5,000 per sq ft because they offer near anonymity if bought through a private company”. Many of these flats come with fingerprint-activated locks, blast-resistant windows, security shutters and smart thermal imaging cameras that detect suspicious activity. Installing such features can typically add £3m to the price of a five-bed property.

Still, no matter how many hired goons you employ, or security devices you install, there’s always the problem of nosy neighbours. So it’s probably best to buy them out. Five years ago, after “an opportunistic developer” tried to trade on his proximity, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to buy all four surrounding houses, ensuring he and his family had “complete privacy for the foreseeable future”, says Justin Fichelson on Observer.com. Many new-money billionaires are following his example.

Go the full Robinson Crusoe

Of course, if you really need to disappear, nothing beats your very own private island. That’s an increasingly popular notion. One broker reckons “there are currently around 30 freehold transactions taking place a year”, say Tom Hale and Fergus Peace in the Financial Times. However, prospective buyers dreaming of full sovereignty should be aware that all islands today “ultimately lie within a nation’s territory”.

This may sound obvious, but recall the case of the American libertarian who, in the 1970s, “tried to found the ‘Republic of Minerva’ by building an artificial island on a reef at the boundary of Tonga”. The King of Tonga was informed – and swiftly raised an army to depose the interloper. It all sounds like an awful lot of hassle and makes me pity the super-rich for the troubles their wealth brings upon them.

Tabloid money… the galling hypocrisy of Silicon Valley’s tech titans

• The £49.99 Barbie Ultimate Kitchen playset has been named as one of the top “must-have” toys for Christmas this year, prompting criticism from those, such as Labour MP Chi Onwurah, who think that it panders to old-fashioned sexism, says Jane Moore in The Sun. “I’d really like to know… why they insist little girls ‘must have’ pink kitchens for Christmas,” said the member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central.

“Girls and boys shouldn’t have their imaginations – and ultimately their careers – limited by toy marketers.” To which one toy industry analyst replied: “Barbie’s not just a housewife cooking for Ken. She’s watched The Great British Bake Off and she’s being innovative with her cooking”. Ever get the impression that the small children being flogged this stuff are a darn sight brighter than the adults selling it?

• Silicon Valley tech titans know how much ingenuity goes into making their apps and games as addictive as possible to children, says Tina Weaver in The Mail on Sunday. That’s why they don’t want their own precious little ones frazzling their brains by playing on them. The Waldorf School right in the heart of Silicon Valley proudly trumpets its traditional teaching using blackboards, textbooks, pencils, paper and outdoor play.

Rightly so. As a result, it has become the most sought-after destination for the offspring of the digital elite in America. Learning that the very people who brought us this technology are shunning it in their own homes is galling beyond words. The hypocrisy is as outrageous as their bank balances.

• Who is to blame for the train strikes in the run-up to Christmas? Blame the greedy, privately owned train companies, who have added an extra £100 on average to the price of season tickets despite offering a lousy service, says Tony Parsons in The Sun on Sunday.

Blame the strike-crazy union bosses. They dream of Comrade Corbyn nationalising the railways. But why would any of us want to see the commuter-loathing National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) workers with even more power? Like some Arthur Scargill tribute band, the RMT is more interested in stopping trains than running them. And blame the pampered politicians, who see the world from the back seat of their chauffeur-driven limos. Blame the lot of them.