Glimpse inside lives of the super rich

By Joanna Mathers

They live a life of unimaginable luxury — yachts worth hundreds of millions, the best food, international shopping — and that’s just the staff.

Personal shopper and stylist Stacey Beatson in Newmarket takes care of the image needs of wealthy clients.
Personal shopper and stylist Stacey Beatson in Newmarket takes care of the image needs of wealthy clients.

A near six-figure salary, regular travel, a work car, and a commercial-grade kitchen to call your own - it's the kind of job description to make any embattled short-order chef quickly update their CV.

But when New Zealand's richest man Graeme Hart advertised for an executive chef to take the reins after previous chef Peter Yeo's departure, it attracted the attention of more than just the culinary community.

The detailed advertisement offered a tantalising glimpse into the lifestyles of the mega-rich.

The role was said to not only involve planning, shopping and preparing "excellent quality food", but required the applicant to travel with the family to holiday homes and engage in "weekend work".

The holiday home is likely to be the family's multi-million dollar mansion on Waiheke Island; the travel may refer to journeys on Hart's super yacht, Weta, which has recently undergone a $50 million spruce up.

Attempts by the Herald on Sunday to contact Hart or his property manager Richard Kriletich were unsuccessful - the New Zealand rich prize their privacy - so the identity of the lucky chef is still unknown. But it seems that New Zealand's super-wealthy are increasingly drawing on the services of chauffeurs, chefs and personal shoppers to help facilitate lifestyles that us mere mortals can only dream about.

Census New Zealand figures from last year reveal growth in certain key roles working for the rich. The number of chauffeurs in New Zealand almost doubled in the seven years from the 2006 census - from 660 to 1140. Housekeepers in private homes grew from 408 to 549; gardener numbers increased from 5037 in 2006 to 5214 last year.

New Zealand's mega-rich may not, for the most part, be public names, but it seems they enjoy living like celebrities. Kim Dotcom-style excess and attendant large staff - think four nannies for five children - is becoming more common among our most wealthy.

The Herald on Sunday spoke to some of those who work behind the scenes to ensure the lives of the wealthy run like clockwork.

Stacey Beatson considers herself "extremely fortunate" to have the clientele she does. The "country girl from Ahipara" wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth but a large number of her clients were.

Beatson is a stylist and image consultant, providing personal shopping services and style advice for affluent Aucklanders through her business Stylistinc.

Charging up to $200 an hour, she advises her clients on everything from the best colours to wear, to choosing the right car.

She says her clients are all "successful and smart" but won't name names. "Let's just say I work with the elite. Many of my clients are very wealthy."

Beatson started her career as a hairdresser and makeup artist and is also a trained image consultant. She has more than 15 years of styling experience, which she uses to help develop "personal brands" for her clients (as well as advice on hair, makeup and clothes, she helps her clients develop logos to attach to emails, personal websites and more).

Most of her clients are women but she does provide style advice for a number of men. "One of my oldest clients is a gentleman of 88," she says. "I also work for some very successful tech innovators who travel overseas a lot. Many of them have no idea how to pack, so I create 'capsules' of clothes for them to take in their bags."

In the past 18 months her business has grown to the extent she is unable to take on any new clients for at least a year. "There is definitely a growing level of affluence in the country."

Beatson works with local designers, such as Trelise Cooper and Workshop, to help develop wardrobes for her clients. She is given advance viewings of clothes for Fashion Week, giving her a headstart when it comes to sourcing items.

"A lot of clients place a huge value on the service I offer," she says.

Most of her clients are in their 50s and 60s but a growing number of younger people are seeking out her style advice. "I have started to see a lot of people in their 20s and 30s as well," she says.

Some of the people she works with change their looks regularly. "I shop with some of my clients every six weeks," she says. "And I oversee their complete image - liaising with hairdressers, working out their makeup for the season, arranging appointments with skin specialists - I do it all."

Claire Boggiss knows all about having to "do it all". As a chief stewardess on superyachts for many years she was charged with ensuring that the massive yachts were run like five-star hotels.

"The standard is very high," she says. "The best way to think of them is like a boutique hotel on the sea."

She now heads Blue Nation, a training school that runs bi-monthly courses in Auckland for wannabe superyacht staff.

Boggiss experienced celebrity excess while working on superyachts. "I was the chief stew on board the yacht in St Tropez that hosted Pamela Anderson's wedding to Kidd Rock in 2006. We had many celebrities on board and many parties. The wedding was a secret from all the crew until just a few days before."

She says Kiwis are prized for their work ethic on superyachts, and our can-do attitude and easy going nature make us popular crew.

"Kiwis make up around 20 per cent of superyacht crew," she says. With nearly 5000 superyachts in existence, the amount of New Zealanders working on the yachts could be up to 9000.


Graeme Hart's luxury superyacht Weta.

New Zealanders don't only make up the crew of superyachts, some of our richest also own them. Rich Listers Michael Hill and Graeme Hart both own superyachts (at 34m, Hill's VvS1 is a mere pup when compared with Hart's luxury 77m Weta) and staffing these mammoth boats is an ongoing and significant expense.

Rachel Harrison of Integrated Marine helps place New Zealanders in positions on board the yachts. She says even the smaller yachts (about 40m) need at least five full-time crew to ensure a seamless operation on sea.

"Each superyacht of this size will need a captain, a first mate and a deck hand. Inside, there will be a chief steward or stewardess and a chef. Larger superyachts will have far larger crews."

Positions on superyacht are full time, and the pay scale ranges from US$15,000 ($17,700) a month for a senior captain on a larger boat, to US$2000 for a junior deck hand for smaller vessels. Inside, a chief steward or stewardess can command up to US$9000 for a larger craft; juniors can earn up to US$3500 a month on all yachts. Larger yachts may also require engineers: senior engineers can command up to US$14,000.

On a superyacht the size of Hart's Weta, there may be a crew of up to 25 - the annual salaries of the captain, engineer and chief steward alone would be more than $600,000.

Auckland's waterfront is increasingly becoming a rich person's playground. Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko parked his US$350m superyacht A there last year and at one point in December, nine superyachts sat side-by-side.

The passengers demand the best, and Hallmark Chauffeur Drive is one of the companies that helps meet the need for luxury. Mike Graves is the general manager of the company. He says that since the 2011 Rugby World Cup the demand for high-end, chauffeur-driven vehicles has expanded hugely.

"We cater for Hollywood, high-end corporate clients and some of New Zealand's elite," he says.

Renting a Hallmark car for a day will set you back about $1000. Graves says some of the visiting wealthy will take a whole fleet for touring the country. He says New Zealand's wealthy are typified by their desire for privacy.

"As a country, we are not ostentatious, and there is the tall poppy thing. People with money who come from New Zealand definitely use our services, but very discreetly."

Graves says that rather than having full-time chauffeurs, a lot of New Zealand's wealthy prefer to establish a good relationship with a driver and a company. And he says more people are using services like his. "We have experienced 20 per cent growth year-on-year since the Rugby World Cup."

Hart's new chef could not be contacted, but Waiheke-based foodie Deb McCarron was happy to talk about the services she offers. The island is the location for many rich Aucklanders' summer getaways and she offers private fine-dining services.

Currently in Thailand getting "foodie inspiration", McCarron has worked for some of the world's top restaurants. She started work on the island in 2006.

"I was approached by a popular retreat on Waiheke called Palm Beach Bungalows. We offered their guests in-house private dining, romantic set dinners for two.

"This grew in popularity and I have expanded my business every year since to incorporate canape parties, gourmet barbecues, fine-dining menus, weddings up to groups of 150."

She also cooks weekly meals for couples and families, and says that 99 per cent of her work is private.

Work is seasonal, starting in October catering private dinner parties for local clients with luxury homes, and ramping up in December for Christmas parties.

"I also have a client who books me out for approximately three weeks to cater for her family and friends, they fly in from London and her husband is a hedge-fund manager," she says.

Her fine-dining menu starts at $99 a head, and her other four-course meals are priced around the $85 mark.

"More affluent people are choosing to hire luxury homes and hold their own parties. All they have to do is choose a menu from my site, give me a date and time and we turn up and bring the restaurant experience to you."

Although working alongside the rich and powerful may seem a glamorous career choice, Harrison says reality is somewhat different. "It's like Downton Abbey," she says of life on a superyacht.

"There is a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure everything is of an extremely high standard."

Graves from Hallmark Chauffeur Drive says the demand for professionals to meet the needs of the wealthy looks set to continue.

"There is a lot of money being spent in this country. Industries that cater for the very high end of the market are really booming."

But he warns that these jobs can be extremely demanding.

"When people pay large amounts of money they expect perfection."


Big bucks for army of staff


Kim Dotcom and Mona Dotcom with their children and their nannies.

• Before the raid on Kim Dotcom's mansion in January 2012, the internet tycoon employed a retinue of staff, including gardeners, housekeepers, kitchen staff and eight security guards. Many of these staff were let go after the raid but Dotcom still has four nannies to help with his five children and a number of security guards on site.

• Graeme Hart recently hired a private chef for his $22 million Glendowie home. The package included a salary of more than $80,000, plus a car. Hart's 77m superyacht, Weta, is said to have a staff of 25. Captains on superyachts of this size can command salaries of nearly $280,000 a year, engineers up to $130,000 and chief stewards up to $120,000.

• At 34m, Michael Hill's superyacht VvS1 may be a minnow compared to Hart's massive Weta, but the five full time staff members on board (captain, engineer, chief stewardess, first mate and second stewardess) are likely to command a combined annual salary of up to $400,000.

- Herald on Sunday

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