A billionaire recently wanted to watch a romantic movie with his girlfriend on the beach, but did not want to get sand on his feet. What did he do? He covered the entire beach with carpets.
The man who made this bizarre fantasy possible is Aaron Simpson of Quintessentially, a concierge service for billionaires. Founded in 2000 by Simpson, the Duchess of Cornwall’s nephew Ben Elliot and Paul Drummond, Quintessentially boasts 60 offices around the world and an annual turnover of £150m. Unsurprisingly for the executive chairman of a company that specialises in making the impossible possible, Simpson has some wacky and wonderful tales to tell.
“The one that really stands out is when we hired the Egyptian pyramids for a Saudi royal who wanted to propose to his lady. We flew 300 of his closest friends for the proposal,” he says. “We brought the lady in a chariot accompanied by eight stallions and, luckily, she said yes. The whole thing cost $40m.”
The firm has also fulfilled many outlandish desires of City stalwarts. “City bosses come to us all the time,” Simpson says. “One member wanted to do something extraordinary for his birthday. As he is obsessed with James Bond, we organised an extra special James Bond-themed adventure for him that included filming a high-speed car chase in a special edition Aston-Martin.”
However, fulfilling bizarre wishes of billionaires isn’t the only thing that floats Simpson’s boat. His next big project is building the “world’s biggest superyacht”.
On yer yacht
The 722-foot yacht, nearly 130 feet longer than the world’s current largest private vessel Azzam, will set sail in 2019. “I came up with the idea of building the firm’s own yacht after finding it difficult to cater to wealthy clients when they all descend on the same high-profile events at the same time,” he says.
Quintessentially is spending £250m on the project, while five billionaires have forked out £8.5m each in return for a suite in the superyacht.
“The yacht has generated an incredible amount of interest from billionaires around the world,” says Simpson. “The most exciting features include A-list singers to perform to guests, underwater bar, cigar room and one of the world’s finest wine cellars.”
What the billionaires really want
Unlike many businessmen, Simpson doesn’t have any concerns over Brexit, which he believes “has benefited the super-wealthy: it has and will continue to make them richer”. However, the fixer does face other challenges. He says the choices of the global elite are changing. It’s becoming more about “who I am” rather than “what I have”.
“Extravagance and luxury is a pervasive trend amongst billionaires, and this will probably never change, but this is the first time in a while that we’ve seen ultra-high-net-worth individuals looking to have status outside of the possession of luxury goods.” The firm has spotted a “health is wealth” trend in clients, which it claims has led to a 20 per cent decrease in nightlife requests. There’s also been a 20 per cent increase in educational experiences as the well-heeled want to learn about how they can cope with changes in the world. “We recently curated an event on counter-terrorism, a popular theme with ultra-high-net-worth individuals as in such tumultuous times a survivalist instinct is kicking in.”
Billionaires might be turning over a new gilded leaf but surely there still must be that one luxury item that they lust over.
“A rare or limited edition watch, such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus 40th Anniversary edition, is the global elite’s favourite luxury good,” says Simpson. “Either they will have a lengthy waiting list or are only offered to very very important clients. That’s why they are notoriously hard to get hold of.”
Whoever thought money can’t buy everything clearly didn’t know who to ask.