Billionaires were slaves to a strict jetsetter calendar — at least before COVID-19 ruffled their cravats.
In early December, that meant off to Miami for Art Basel — aka “the running of the billionaires” — then to St. Barts for a New Year’s Eve glass of bubbly aboard Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s $500 million megayacht.
Next they stopped in Palm Beach, Fla., to say hello to Stephen Schwarzman, Leonard Lauder or Robert Kraft (if they dare!), then a ski jaunt in the Alps in the spring. In May, it was on to the South of France to hit the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix.
In summer, some chartered yachts along the Amalfi Coast, while others opted for the French Riviera — bobbing in and out of the Hamptons via private jet from Memorial to Labor Day. They spent millions upon millions on princely compounds all the while.
But travel restrictions and the viral threat has disrupted the play schedules of the superrich and the seasonal real estate markets relying on peripatetic high rollers. Even in New York — where some 113 billionaires rest their laurels, according to Wealth-X — the lights are out along 57th Street’s Billionaire’s Row.
“The travel patterns of the extremely wealthy have been thrown into a tailspin because of Covid,” said Tony Abrams, founder of Four Hundred, a membership-based concierge and travel company that counts more than 75 billionaires as clients.
“Most of their go-to events like Basel have been canceled, and border restrictions prevent them from going to their usual international haunts.”
Now, restless 1 percenters are carving out a new routine.
“In the past, I’ve gone to Europe over the summer, and the people who chartered from me would normally be in St. Tropez instead of New England,” said Jim Glidewell, a demi-billionaire.
Glidewell spent part of this unprecedented summer in New England on his 161-foot, five-bedroom superyacht named Zoom Zoom Zoom, renting it out to New York hedge funders when he wasn’t cruising. A weekly charter is $165,000.
“Going clamming, watching sunsets and drinking expensive wine is about as action packed as it’s gotten,” he said.
But 2020 wasn’t just an off year. The routines of the ruling class are changing. Here’s a look at the new billionaire social calendar and what it means for some of the world’s top real estate markets.
After being ravaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and locking down during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, the tony isle of St. Bart is back with celebs like Paul McCartney, Amy Schumer and Chrissy Teigen all spotted over the holidays.
“St. Bart’s has always been hot, but this year it’s on fire because it’s one of the handful of places that’s open to visitors,” said Abrams. “It’s a place with great beaches and restaurants and gorgeous villas.”
Famously aloof billionaires favor private villas over the island’s luxe hotels and the 16,000-square-foot Villa Rockstar, which goes for upwards of $175,000 a week during high season, is one of the best.
Situated on Saint Jean beach and owned by Eden Rock, the property has six suites including one with a 24-carat white-gold bathroom.
After St. Barts, the party moves on to Palm Beach, where the already costly real estate rental and sales markets have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic.
Billionaires including financier Henry Kravis, investor Carl Ichan and Julia Koch, widow of industrialist David Koch, all hibernate in Palm Beach over the winter.
“People want to park themselves someplace warm while they wait out to see what happens with the vaccine,” said Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, the president of Fisher Travel Enterprises, a membership-based lifestyle and travel company.
Gstaad, Courchevel and St. Moritz may be off the table for now, but the other mainstay billionaire stomping ground of Aspen, Colo., will be an even wilder see-and-be-seen destination this spring.
Jeff Bezos, John Paulson and Kris, Kendall and Kylie Jenner (who are currently paying $450,000 a month for an Aspen spread) are just a few of the high rollers with homes here.
“Aspen will be popular in the same way St. Bart’s is over Christmas,” said Abrams. “Both have the same crowds.”
Four Peaks Ranch in Snowmass, which goes for $20,000 a night, is one of the ski paradise’s best billionaire bastions. The property is set on 876 acres and has 15 miles of private trails for cross-country and snowmobiling. Other amenities include seven bedrooms, eight baths, a movie theater and an indoor/outdoor pool with grottos and a waterfall.
Lately, billionaires who want to avoid the buzz of Aspen are escaping to nearby Telluride, where the 40,000-square-foot Sleeping Indian Ranch from Auberge rents for a minimum of $50,000 a night. With 15,000 acres of total privacy and endless amenities like a movie theater, gym and a cigar humidor room, the estate and the community is about as exclusive as it gets.
In 2020, the Hamptons and Malibu filled in for the French Riviera and the Amalfi Coast as getaway spots of choice for the money-is-no-object set. And real estate experts predict a repeat this summer.
“The demand for long-term rentals in Malibu especially shot through the roof when Covid hit,” said Andrew Steinberg, a luxury advisor with Ovation Vacations in New York City. “The broker I work with to find homes for my clients got 200 calls in March for summer renters, which was more than a tenfold increase from last year.”
In the Hamptons, folks like George Soros, Ralph Lauren and Steve Cohen are among the many tycoons hiding out.
The biggest deal of the year came from the hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin who paid $84.4 million for Calvin Klein’s former 7-acre property at 650 Meadow Lane in Southampton.
Your grandmother and the world’s richest now have something in common. They both love to watch the leaves change!
Believe it or not, destinations like the Adirondacks and Vermont — playgrounds for old money like the Rockefellers, nouveau riche titans like Alibaba’s Jack Ma, as well as celebs like Bruce Springsteen and Sigourney Weaver — saw a huge influx of billionaires this year, according to Fischer-Rosenthal.
Heavy hitters who headed to the Adirondacks clamored for takeovers of The Point, a pricy hotel set on Upper Saranac Lake and the former camp of William Avery Rockefeller. The nightly buyout rate is $29,600.
But the exceptionally well-heeled also enjoyed the mild weather in New England by boat, according to Daniel Ziriakus, the president of yacht charter brokerage Northrop & Johnson, who rents out Gildewell’s yacht.
Glidewell gets it: “Even when the world opens up again, I love the idea of being in New England, not St. Tropez. It’s a destination with a lot to offer.”