As part of Byline Times’ look at The March of the Oligarchs, Stephen Colegrave considers the impact of their progeny: the global super kids.
There is a new breed of young people who are constantly on the move, have no roots, lack career aspirations or monetary worries. They prefer private planes, live in at least four countries and – like migratory birds – colonise the coast in the summer.
These are the global super kids who have been spawned by the growing group of oligarchs and their imitators.
Of course, since The Great Gatsby and P.G. Wodehouse, there has been interest in the young, spoilt rich dancing the Charleston through the night and roaring home to their stately piles in the early hours in their convertible Bentleys.
More recently, Trustafarians became the hippies of this world of privilege and unearned wealth. They lived drug-fuelled bohemian lifestyles in downtown New York and Notting Hill, but were relatively benign.
Just like punk kicked hippies into oblivion, the oligarchs’ global super kids have trounced Trustafarians with an unadulterated materialism which has no time for introspection or alternative lifestyles.
Their spending power is beyond belief. Forget Eton, they are more likely to be educated at a Swiss boarding school such as Institut Le Rosey, where fees start at $157,000 dollars a year.
Many of their parents are self-made or, more often, self-grab. The fastest growing countries for billionaires are China and India, although Russians are the archetype. In the past few years, there has reportedly been a surge in the number of known dollar billionaires – from 1,810 in 2016 to 2,754 in 2018.
However, there are many more multi-millionaire parents living the oligarch lifestyle who can afford one of the world’s 26,000 private jets, according to Quora. Estimates suggest that the real number of these global super kids is more than 50,000 and growing by up to 20% a year as China, India, Nigeria and many more countries create more super rich oligarchs.
While, increasingly, these global super kids do not originate from North America or Europe, London remains an important playground and safe haven. More billionaires are based in London than in any other city in the world.
The lives of the super global kids couldn’t be more different than young people elsewhere.
For example, there is an international circuit of global super kids who fly around the world with show jumping horses, grooms and trainers to compete in a sport which is costing their parents hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. Others fly from club to club, punctuated by expensive charity dinners and so-called exclusive charity events such as the Gumball Rally and the Rickshaw Challenge or burning up the streets in outrageous sports cars or sunbathing on super yachts.
When they marry each other, the spending of the oligarchs’ spawn really spikes. Lolita Osmanova’s wedding in 2017 cost £7.7 million. She took over the venue of the Oscars, LA’s iconic Dolby Theatre, for her wedding to Gaspar Avdolyan, and flew in Lady Gaga and Jason Derulo to perform.
Apart from creating a huge carbon footprint why does this matter? There have always been spoilt, over-privileged young people who treat life as a playground.
Because this group is different. It is a global phenomenon, flying around the world at a speed never imagined before.
Although they are living a life beyond any Instagram fantasy, this group has never been as rootless or disconnected from the real issues in the world. Increasingly, they come from oligarch families who have at the very least cut corners to acquire wealth and care little for the rule of law or democracy.
They are a group who could do great good, but too often don’t care to. They do have influence. Their appearances on social media and gossip columns create empty aspirations for young people around the world and help fuel a celebrity culture which idealises excess.
Some rich parents are concerned about the effect of inherited super wealth on their kids and have decided not to leave them vast sums. These include billionaires George Lucas and Andrew Lloyd Webber and the super-rich Simon Cowell, Elton John, Sting and Gordon Ramsay. It is difficult to tell if this is just a feature of the media and arts industries or whether they simply have the best PR – but, at the moment, no Chinese, Indian or Russian oligarchs seem to be following their example.
Increasingly, the parents of the global super kids don’t have the traditional wealth management of family offices, where traditional merchant banks help advise rich families on how to support children facing this onslaught of wealth. Indeed, there are consultants offering to help family offices in this endeavour.
The vast majority of kids from the new oligarch class, don’t have this structure. Oligarchs are keen to launder their kids through expensive private schools and universities, away from the dirtier side of the business that made them rich, but they are often too willing to let them drift through life, too rich to work or build their own place in society.
If only they could be harnessed to do good, instead of wasting their lives or worse.
Force for Good?
Harvard University has spotted that there is a lucrative market in all this and joined with the University of Zurich, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, to offer a course on Investing for the Next Generation, which charges $12,000 plus board and lodgings for a course about how to make impact investments that benefit society as well as their pockets.
There is also a more intensive course for $58,000, according to Bloomberg. Most of the alumni seem to be from more established families rather than the new oligarchs.
There are some hopeful signs that some super global kids are tiring of their rootless existence.
Groups such as The Impact and Nexus Global are attracting new young philanthropists and giving them the chance to directly make change, instead of going to stuffy charity events. Nexus Global claims to have 6,000 members in 40 countries and is getting young, wealthy philanthropists interested in impact investment and how to tackle such difficult global problems as modern slavery. It positions itself as a community of global citizens accelerating global solutions and cleverly offers a sense of purpose and belonging to a group of super global kids who often have neither.
There are great examples of super global kids who have devoted their lives to philanthropy like Dhani Harrison, the son of The Beatles’ George Harrison, who runs the Material World Charitable Foundation his father set up to help refugees. He was probably brought up to appreciate the power of giving, though and is a rare example. If your father wasn’t a Beatle but an ex-KGB officer who ended up grabbing wealth during the political upheaval at the end of the Soviet Union, you might have a very different upbringing and view of philanthropy.
The question is: which direction will this generation of global super kids take? The power they have is immense. In an increasingly corporate world, private super rich individuals are still acquiring wealth at an exponential rate. Ernst & Young estimates that high net worth individuals will have almost $70 trillion.
In a world where, in many countries, the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, will this fast-growing group of global super kids just jet around the world faster or will they start trying to improve it? And, if they do, will they act wisely or just play at doing good and having impact, in the same senseless way they approach having fun?