Friday, December 5, 2008

The Source of De Nile

[Scene: A therapist's office. A cellphone rings.]
Mrs. Ari: "Ari? I told you to turn that off."
Ari Gold: "I did turn it off, but this is the emergency line. This is the Bat Line, baby."
Therapist: "Do you need to get that?"
Ari: "I do need to take this, yeah."
Mrs. Ari: "No he doesn't. I ask for one hour out of the day. For his undivided attention. And I can't even have that."
Ari: "You can have it if you wanna live in Agora fucking Hills, and go to group therapy. But if you want a Beverly Hills mansion, and you want a country club membership, and you want nine weeks a year at a Tuscan villa, then I'm gonna need to take a call when it comes in at noon on a motherfucking Wednesday!


In case you hadn't noticed, the gravy train is over.

This is bad news for investment bankers, private equity moguls, and hedge fund professionals, of course. It is also bad news for the lawyers, accountants, consultants, and commercial and residential real estate brokers who depend upon them for their livelihood.

But it is even worse news for their wives and mistresses, and the largely parasitic community of wealth suckers who feed upon the steady flood of ill-gotten gains which these women1 have been siphoning out of their husbands' bank accounts and pumping into the community for years. Luxury goods retailers, twee French bistros, personal drivers, personal trainers, personal shoppers, and the women manning the cosmetics counter at Henri Bendel should all begin to worry that theirs will be a much bleaker and more impecunious future.

I don't think the strappy Manolo sandal has dropped for everyone yet, though.

With few exceptions, Girlfriend and her "retail therapy" enablers seem to be in a state of denial similar to the one their Sugar Daddies passed through over a year ago. I don't care how many €150,000 crocodile Birkin bags Russian oligarch wives buy, Bernard Arnault didn't build LVMH into a €16 billion retail juggernaut by selling one-of-a-kind baubles to the ultra-rich. The €175 billion luxury goods industry depends on armies of women from the middle class on up not only to lust after its wares, but also to buy them.

You can understand why Mrs. Big Swinging Dick might be having a little trouble coming to terms with today's realities, though. The poor thing has been far too busy spending BSD's money for the last several years to worry about where it was coming from or whether it would continue indefinitely. Given that it now seems that hubby didn't have the answers to those questions either, it is a little much to expect her to have worried her immaculately groomed little head about it herself.

Besides, after years of telling her maid to wash the blood off the soles of her man's wingtips every night, I think she knew better than to ask.

* * *

It's not just the Ladies Who Lunch and their hangers-on who are going to have to bite the bullet.

In the same way, nightspots in Manhattan have become dependent on horny young investment bankers, dangling scantily clad Ukranian and Czech hotties as bait to draw in undersexed youngsters able to spend $300 on a bottle of Ketel One on the off chance they might get lucky before some Managing Director calls them back into the office to spread the S&P 500. A recent unscientific survey in the trendy Meatpacking District by Yours Truly revealed that the only things inhabiting the tables and banquettes reserved for bottle service were dust bunnies and a couple of Somali pirates. Likewise, art dealers and auction houses have gotten hooked on the crack cocaine of laundered hedge fund profits, and real estate developers seem to have built enough inventory in downtown Manhattan to house five times the total number of future employed junior investment bankers for the next twenty years.

It's not all grim, however. Felix Salmon thinks there will be a bull market in escapism. Journalists and bloggers alike—your Dedicated Bloggist included—are certainly long schadenfreude, but I feel compelled to remind everyone that this is a very rapidly depreciating asset. I think the average Joe and Josephine are getting close to their fill of industry exposés and critical profiles of the former Titans of Finance. There is only so much you can read (or write) about Dick Fuld or Ken Griffin before you collapse from sheer boredom.

I have high hopes for Hollywood, though. There's always the sequel to Wall Street to look forward to, although I imagine it could use a serious trip to the Rewrite Department about now. I don't know: perhaps we will even get our own big budget musicals, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing blissfully on the rooftop of 15 Central Park West while unemployed i-bankers and hedge fund traders down on the street burn CDO and SIV documentation in oil drums to keep warm.

In the meantime, though, retailers of aspirational goods and services are going to take it in the shorts.

Silk lamé or not.

1 I make no apologies for the apparent sexism of my remarks. Notwithstanding my best efforts, the proportion of the fairer sex who actually hold professional positions in the finance industry (outside the Human Resources Department, natch) remains vanishingly small. Until and unless I see substantially more evidence that women are manning up and bringing home the big bucks themselves, rather than relying on their or someone else's hubby to do so, I will continue to assume that bankers, PE guys, and hedgies should be referred to with male pronouns. Go ahead, ladies, prove me wrong. As I have warned the missus from the beginning, I am more than willing to chuck her, the i-banking grindstone, and everything else to become some Amazon's boy toy if one ever shows up. To date, Mrs. Dealmaker has remained disappointingly unworried by my threats. (Memo to self: Next time, marry a dumb blonde.)

© 2008 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.