February 22, 2021
Behind the scenes
With over 2,800 billionaires in the world and a combined net worth of over $9.5 trillion, it may come as no surprise that there is an entire industry that specializes in running their estates.
Following the 80’s internet boom, as their wealth grew, so did their real estate portfolios. Fast forward 30 years and a newly built mega mansion named the “One” in Bel Air, Los Angeles is selling for an eye-popping $500 million.
The super rich and their vast real estate portfolios are well taken care of by an army of professionals bound by lengthy non-disclosure agreements. Having a butler, private chef, sommelier, bodyguard, estate manager, chauffeur and chief of staff has become the new norm, and elite staffing agencies saw this as a great opportunity.
Headhunters are constantly searching for top talent at top pay for a new market fueled by the ever-increasing number of new billionaires. If you have ever wondered who runs these operations behind the scenes, let me introduce you to one of them, the award-winning former luxury hotelier, Global Director of Properties, Aron Moldovanyi. He can’t disclose the identity of his principal client, only that he is a Forbes-listed billionaire who lives in multiple time zones between four countries on three continents.
We are sitting by a waterfall with a 20-foot drop into a turquoise infinity pool. With spectacular views of the city skyline, one can see all the way to Santa Catalina Island on clear days like this. The manicured tropical forest around me brings tranquility to this beautiful Bel Air estate that boasts of several mansions and guest houses, swimming pools, a gym, a recreational center, a tennis court, and even a barber shop.
“Apologies in advance – if the principal calls, I need to take it. We need to be available 24/7,” he explains. “He is my fourth billionaire employer since I transitioned from the ultra-luxury hotel sector,” he adds.
So how do you get a job like this?
“I was headhunted in London to manage a 21st century Hellenic style palace on a Mediterranean island. The European real estate developer tycoon was my first principal. The rest is history.”
Where do you learn these skills?
“There is no university course or degree that would teach you how to manage a private island with yachts and planes. It is quite common nowadays to operate over 20 properties for a single employer. I guess there are similarities between managing a large hotel and operating a chain of mansions around the world, but you definitely have to be cut out for this,” he says with a cheeky smile.
Any impossible task you’ve ever had to complete?
“If you’ve got the budget, I guess nothing is impossible, but you have to think outside the box. You might need to figure out how to pump oxygen into an office room, levitate a 100-lb statue, assemble an inflatable moon that shines on the master bedroom balcony at night or climate control a doghouse for hot summer days.”
I assume you have done all of these. Did you say a doghouse?
“Yes, complete with plunge pool and trampoline.”
That just sounds crazy. Do you get to live on their property too?
“Some of us do. There are practical reasons of course. Butlers and bodyguards, for instance, need to cover every hour of every day so it kind of makes sense.”
Do you have any private life at all?
“It really depends on the principal’s lifestyle. It can be pretty hectic at times. When we travel, you never know what country you’re going to wake up in the next day.”
What are the perks?
“My 40th birthday gift was a trip to Singapore. He just handed me his bank card, told me to book a two-week vacation and pick any flight, hotel, and country in the world. My wife and I literally spun a globe and that is where it stopped. Principals are usually very generous and take good care of you and your loved ones. You get the best healthcare, superb accommodations with all the facilities, and great food to keep you fit and healthy.”
Sounds like a dream job to me! What is the catch?
“Well, you have to constantly prove yourself no matter where you come from. There is no room for mistakes, and they do not take no for an answer. There are no calendar holidays. We all follow the principal’s schedule, and everything needs to run like a Swiss clock. They know they can afford the best talent, and if you don’t perform, there are no second chances.”
What is the hardest part of your job? (He laughs out loud).
“Buying a Christmas present for the boss. You can only imagine.”
What can you buy for a billionaire?
“They can afford anything they like so it is really difficult to surprise them. I try to get creative. It’s not about the price tag. The best gift I’ve given was a box of pencils from Target. He used to make notes on our reports and just loved the old-fashioned graphite pencils.”
Would you live a billionaire’s life?
“No, I don’t think so.” He shakes his head.
“Let’s just say that having that much money comes with a lot of stress too. I value quality of life over standard of living.”
I am back at my apartment now, typing this article as the gloomy winter afternoon gives way to an amazing sunset above Hollywood Hills. Quality of life over standard of living might sound like a cliché, but I’ll take Aron’s word for it. If anyone would know, it’s him. I just can’t stop thinking about those mansions in Bel Air. It would be so nice to own one. Just one.