Saturday, 28 January 2012

rich Irish still live life with a bang!


Not everybody is going broke in Ireland these days. While the bankruptcy courts continue to clog with casualties of the recession, like the Stokes brothers, there still remains a wealthy sector of society flying well above the financial carnage. Preferring to indulge in luxury jaunts outside the country rather than display any largesse at home, they head to places far beyond Irish shores for treasured moments they'll never boast about in the society columns. One such pair headed first class Down Under for a specially organised New Year's Eve treat for two, high atop the Sydney Opera House to view the biggest fireworks display on the planet. It was the ultimate night to remember for the middle-aged couple, and all organised by their personal concierge service -- where discretion comes as part of the package. Though the ranks of Ireland's rich and famous have been severely thinned out by the economic downturn, there are still plenty of low-profile millionaires out there willing to spend big on the finer things in life. Quintessentially, the international concierge service with an office in Dublin, is one such agency facilitating the whims of a wealthy Irish membership -- but nowadays without the flash and brash. The service, opened in Ireland in 2006, is surviving well, despite the downturn. "Our membership numbers in the hundreds," says managing director Wayne Cronin. "Many are entrepreneurs and business executives who travel across different timezones on a weekly basis and want personal assistance at the end of a phone wherever they are." The age demographic runs from 30 to 55 years old, with a 70-30 male-to-female split. The low-profile pleasures of today's rich are a long way from the excess of a 2004 Quintessentially members survey showing the Irish ranked first in the world for spending on property, private jets, cars and the trappings of a luxury lifestyle -- ahead of even the Middle East, Russia, China and the USA. Wishes granted to affluent Celtic tigers in those halcyon days included having a member's prized Aston Martin shipped to South Africa just for a week's holiday. Another client with romance on his mind requested, and got, a private jet painted lurid pink for a unique marriage proposal on a Caribbean island. Quintessentially, started in 2000, is the brain-child of Ben Elliot, a nephew of Camilla Parker Bowles, and film producer Aaron Simpson. Offering "a golden Rolodex capable of lifting velvet ropes worldwide," the operation, built on the personal touch, now has branches in 64 cities around the globe. General annual membership costs up to €1,600 a couple with access to 'all lifestyle requests', with dedicated membership running from €3,250 for a single to €5,200 for a full-time Lifestyle Manager. Elite Membership, costing up to €30,000, is by invitation only and provides an exclusive team of dedicated personal managers in each Quintessentially territory -- a kind of Jeeves for the jaded. Discretion prevents Wayne Cronin from hinting at who Quintessentially's Irish members might be, but stars like Sophie Dahl and Coldplay have been fulsome in their praise over the years. Elton John, David Bowie, J K Rowling and Kate Moss have also been associated with the company. "I rely on Quintessentially mainly in times of crisis. They help me jump the queue," Jemima Khan once observed. Other unusual demands made by wealthy Irish members recently included: sending an entire circus troupe to a client's home for his child's birthday party. And at another kid's party, the company sourced a dozen live penguins to add to the merriment. In the realm of boys' toys, one thirtysomething received the ultimate in high-testosterone gifts taking the controls of an Air Force fighter-jet at 43,000ft. On the other extreme, one couple wanted to celebrate a significant anniversary with a romantic private dinner on an iceberg in New Zealand -- which they got, with first-class tickets out and back. Cronin cites another recent instance where he organised an assistant to travel to Paris to exchange a dress for a client who didn't have the time to go herself. "Time is money to people at this level, and it's clearly worth it to have somebody else do chores like this for them," he said.