Having a great fortune can be a tremendous burden, a problem that must be managed. One of my Facebook friends, Chad, is very rich. Although he defines himself as an entrepreneur, he lives on a trust fund and his primary occupation is managing his family foundation. Chad recently posted on Facebook that he was using money from the foundation to set up urban kiosks all over Manhattan, where people could stop by and use the kiosk like a free ATM machine to vote on their level of happiness for the day. His post on Facebook had 20 likes.
My Facebook friend has good intentions. Chad is not evil or crazy; he’s just plain clueless. He does not understand that there is a huge and growing segment of the population that would prefer decent health care coverage and a lower cost for monopolized commodities such as food, gas and utilities. Chad thinks he is being clever and innovative, a true entrepreneur. He is unaware of how most of the world is living. His 20 likes on Facebook came from friends who are a lot like him. They aren’t evil or crazy; they’re just clueless and immature.
Alexander Soros, son of billionaire George Soros, embarrassed his family when his party photos showed up on Facebook. Images of the young Soros drinking and carousing while cruising on the family boat quickly ricocheted from his personal Facebook to the front page of top-tier press. Since the media debacle, he has gone through great effort to turnaround his party boy image and started the Alexander Soros Foundation to promote social justice and human rights while he pursues his Ph.D. in history at Berkeley.
It is a daunting challenge to be fabulously rich. You go to the best schools and any deficiencies are corrected from an early age by a legion of the finest medical and learning specialists. The children of the superrich are armed with a cadre of coaches who work hard to unearth their potential and to give them the best possible start in life. Imagine what happens when all of that expertise and money is invested in them and they still fail. And worse yet, the failure is captured publicly for the whole world to see.
Public opinion is harsh when the superrich fail. Who could forget the horror of the news story in London this past summer when 48 year old billionaire, heiress Eva Rausing, one of the richest women in Britain, was found dead from an apparent drug overdose in her $90M home. Her body remained undiscovered for three weeks, while her husband, four children and staff went about their business as usual. How could a decomposing body go unnoticed? Eva Rausing’s husband, Hans Kristian was arrested, not for murder, but for running a drug den. Enough illicit drugs were stored in the house to keep a small village stoned indefinitely. At the time of her death, Eva Rausing was not without social influence. She was a trustee of one Prince Charles’ favorite charity, The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, and a co-patron with Kate Middleton of the drug charity Action on Addiction, to which she had given hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A post on a news blog surrounding Eva Rausing’s death very nicely summarizes how the weight of public opinion always tilts heavily against the superrich. The post reads: Imagine being that rich and still such a loser!
Earlier this year, George Soros warned of “'Riots,' 'Brutal' Clampdowns & Possible Total Economic Collapse.” Soros understands how to position his brand in the current economic meltdown, which is why, more often than not; he defines himself as a philanthropist and not only a billionaire financier. It is also why his son’s antics were nipped in the bud and a press campaign ensued to show the boy’s new humanitarian track. Keep in mind, when the rich make a public mess, they can remedy the situation by starting a foundation. Aside from the potential PR benefit, foundations come with excellent tax breaks. Throughout history, the public has reacted harshly to the wealthier classes who were perceived as haughty, oppressive and greedy. Due to the rising socio-economic pressures of our times, those who have great wealth need to exert both awareness and sensitivity when dealing with the public, and especially when they are building their brand image