View Full Version : Lifestyles of CEOs and top financial movers and shakers

01-24-2014, 01:21 AM
Hi, anyone know much about the lifestyles of top business figures? I'm not looking so much the Hollywood celebrity type of rich people but more like top international CEOs and decision makers. I have a scene at a private club catering to a fictitious set of this sort.

What brands of suits would they wear? In public they seem to wear entirely hues of gray. Black even seems to be for underlings. Am I off there? The observer POV is well educated and no novice but not from that social class, so I don't need every detail but I would like to include a couple of telling details.

What would they drink and eat at a private club in the evening?

What music would they listen to or what other entertainment might they have at such a club?

I actually had brief access to such circles once 15 years ago when I wrote a couple of features for Business Week but I was out of my depth and I am very nearsighted so I didn't pick up on the clothing details. Most suits look pretty much identical to me. I could use say a particular type of watch or shoes or some such to identify them. Generally, my POV isn't going to know names. He's going to be thinking: The guy with the .... watch said, "....." So, any details on what types of accessories are in for men in that class would be most welcome. Thanks!

Los Pollos Hermanos
01-24-2014, 01:27 AM
I can't help with their attire, etc., but there's a lot about the unsavoury lifestyle/habits of some of them in this book:


A fascinating read. ;)

01-24-2014, 01:32 AM
In my (limited) experience? Sober, bespoke business suits. In the City I imagine you wouldn't want a brand so much as a tailor. In London you go to Savile Row for that. In the media sector, maybe a bit shade flashier. A Paul Smith or an Oswald Boateng, depending on how personality-driven the business is. Good teeth and hair, because they can afford to spend money on things like that (I look like a pallet of condemned beef jerky.) Expensive shoes - Church's on the men, say, Louboutins etc on the women. Female CEOs I've known have dressed relatively conservatively. but had great accessories.

Restaurants that are Michelin-starred, but do a business lunch. Le Gavroche does a bloody good one for, what, £120 a head, including wine? And you're out of there quickly. Or go to your club, Boodle's, say, or if you're in the media maybe the Garrick or the Groucho or Soho House.

I, on the other hand, am wearing a cardboard belt! Let this be a lesson never to become involved in the book trade. Go trade stocks!

01-24-2014, 03:29 AM
Our CEO is not able to travel with commercial airlines, he has to take the corporate jet for insurance reasons.

01-24-2014, 04:41 AM
Businessinsider is a good site to follow for that sort of thing - http://www.businessinsider.com/

They're sort of the finance world's tabloid...

01-24-2014, 10:10 AM
Ooo goodie! Thanks all! Good ideas. I have been meaning to read Snakes in Suits. I guess it is about time. :)

Any ideas on what hotels these guys stay in when traveling in the British Isles or Europe in general?

01-24-2014, 01:52 PM
Discreet, expensive ones - not super-duper flash, because that's pomp and ceremony that they don't need. Well located so they have the least amount of travel time between office locations and transport (airports, etc.).

Most CEOs will be working somewhere between 15 and 20 hours a day. I recall a recent Forbes piece that compared office hours for major CEOs backing this up - with the average start time being 6am. The earliest was 4am.

That means they will be working even when apparently relaxing. Answering emails, on the phone, etc. So I would find a scene in a private club unrealistic if someone didn't stand up in the middle of dinner and leave to answer a call (I would expect them to leave the table though, because standards of politeness would be strictly enforced in such a club).

01-24-2014, 02:16 PM
Google "Dennis Kozlowski".


01-24-2014, 04:14 PM
I don't know much about other industries, but in finance and real estate, I've noticed:

Attire: I agree with those who mentioned bespoke suits rather than named brands. A few might go with brands like Ermenegildo Zegna or Hugo Boss, but most would find a tailor they like and would stay loyal customers. The suits themselves are pretty basic-looking. Solid dark colors, well-fitted.

The flash is shown more in the watches and the cars. Many would probably have a collection of Patek Philippes and Chopards. The fashion-conscious ones would have the very latest watches and probably check the time a lot and in such a way that makes other people want to punch them in the face.

The women would most definitely be sporting the best accessories. Handbags and briefcases would be part of their well thought-out outfit. I noticed that in Scandal, the MC's go-to bag is a Prada. They're also more likely to go for designer suits rather than tailors. But tbh, I can't really recognize brand name clothes...most of the time I would only recognize the bags, partly because the logo would probably be on the front of the bag.

Food and drink: Depends on whatever menu the chef has come up with. Check out Michelin restaurants' menus for the latest "must-have" ingredients.

Entertainment: At one dinner, there was a famous illusionist...but that was it. Most of the time they just had a pianist or a mini symphony.

Where they stayed: Near the CBD. Many of them would be members of large hotel chains like the St. Regis etc, so they'd pick whichever's closest to the CBD.

01-24-2014, 04:41 PM
Here's a documentary about the lifestyle of one of America's wealthiest men that you might find edifying: http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6830834/mitt-romney-style-gangnam-style-parody

(I suppose the URL gives it away a bit, doesn't it?)

Bing Z
01-24-2014, 06:04 PM
I don't know much about other industries, but in finance and real estate, I've noticed:

Attire: I agree with those who mentioned bespoke suits rather than named brands. A few might go with brands like Ermenegildo Zegna or Hugo Boss, but most would find a tailor they like and would stay loyal customers. The suits themselves are pretty basic-looking. Solid dark colors, well-fitted.

OT to om hippo: How did you recognize the brands of their suits? I once researched sporting people wearing Armani suits (sadly I didn't have one, is why I've been lookin' for more bitcoRns.) but in the end all I could comfortably identify was "well-fitted" which means they could be wearing Armani or Kilgour and there isn't red-lacquered sole or logo sewn on the lapel.

TO OP: You need to identify the industry and your character's personality/interests. Mark Zuckerberg will dress entirely differently to Leon Black except maybe when they are in the same black-tie party. Sheryl Sandberg seems to dress rather casually yet Marissa Mayer is a fashionista. Paul Allen has three yachts, while Mike Bloomberg seems to have none. Russell Simmons is a vegan. Ivanka Trump reportedly travels on commercial flights rather than private jets. A CEO may opt to stay at The Ritz Paris while another may prefer the intimate Lancaster.

01-24-2014, 06:18 PM
OT to om hippo: How did you recognize the brands of their suits? I once researched sporting people wearing Armani suits (sadly I didn't have one, is why I've been lookin' for more bitcoRns.) but in the end all I could comfortably identify was "well-fitted" which means they could be wearing Armani or Kilgour and there isn't red-lacquered sole or logo sewn on the lapel.

Oh god, I don't. Hur hur. :D Suits all look the same to me. BUT people who drop money on clothes tend to mention it from time to time, sometimes in earnest (say, when a conversation calls for it), sometimes to show off, and I noticed Zegna and Hugo Boss being two of the most mentioned names.

When it comes to bags and shoes, though, I'm your hippo. :D Mr. Put is always rolling his eyes when we watch TV shows like The Good Wife or Scandal, cause I'd be like, "That bag is Michael Kors. Those shoes are Ferragamo."

01-24-2014, 06:50 PM
Reading down the thread I was going to query how much individuality there is - and Bing Z has covered that one. :)

@afarnum - what PoV are you writing in? From the PoV of one of the executives or from an observer such as yourself writing an article?

I'm really interested by this thread as I've always fought shy of writing scenes with top of the corporate food chain types like this as I've not really had much interaction with them in a business environment. I was just wondering about their viewpoint on the world - obviously it is going to vary by individual - but how much do they notice each other's suits and accessories and the like? Do they comment on it to the person or behind their backs, does it affect business dealings that a person is not dressed like "one of us"?
I'd expect, as has already been said, that the media sector would be fashionable. I was just wondering how much difference between say a finance/accountancy company and say an engineering company, especially if members of the board were engineers at the start of their career.
Does it vary by country? Is the USA dressier than the UK for example?

As a writer I'd worry that a scene about such people might not ring true to one of those people if they ever read it. (Or had the time to read it :) )

To expand - a while back I read The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide by Richard Conniff - which is an amusing read btw. One of the points that came out in that, was that at one point he hired what was for him a very expensive sports car in order to drive to interview some of the rich people. If I remember, he did it so he'd fit in. Then he worked out that something like that was just starter kit in those circles - something they'd buy their son for his 18th birthday.......

Teeth were mentioned earlier in the thread. There is a definite USA UK difference there. Talking once with someone from UK who was aiming for the top of the foodchain, he said he'd have to have some serious dental work done on his uneven front teeth (which I'd never noticed as being anything other than normal) as in the USA regular, white, shiny teeth were essential. There was apparently some expensive procedure a bit like capping, where the teeth were polished in situ to a more even appearance and then coated. (Sounded like asking for trouble to me...)

By the way, if a suit is silk, or has silk mixed in with the wool thread, you can see a bit of a sheen to it. Sober business wear in the UK wouldn't have it I'd have thought.

There is also the habit of buying two pairs of trousers to one jacket, as the trousers wear out faster.

01-24-2014, 06:51 PM
I will say, from my experience at least, the higher up socially someone is, the more conscious they are of the pecking order and their own precise 'place'.

Keep in mind there's often a conflict between 'old money' and 'nouveau riche' as well. Old money types will often frown on status symbols or flashy cars and be more concerned with who one's ancestors were, but the world of high finance and so on often consists of the latter.

I can't find the article now, but a few years back businessinsider had an article about designer labels and status in the big investment banks like Goldman Sachs. Basically if you were a lower-level staff member you were not 'allowed' to wear particular brands and so on, which were reserved for the higher-ups.

Here's one example: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-ultimate-status-symbol-at-goldman-the-ferragamo-loafer-2011-1

A Goldmanite explains: to wear a pair of Ferragamo loafers "is a status symbol," inside the bank.

"You don't buy them until you've made it. All the partners, the MDs - they wear them. But analysts and associates - No. You'd get cut down if you bought a pair too early."

Bing Z
01-24-2014, 08:50 PM
What happens to those junior Goldmanites who wear Ballys?

01-24-2014, 10:05 PM
All this has reminded me of a thing a friend told me years ago about a company she worked at. Above a certain grade level, it was required that the suit you wore was silk. You could tell who was bucking for promotion, because they'd be wearing the (expensive) suits already at a lower grade than was required. The inverse of the GS thing.

01-24-2014, 11:08 PM
This is all great info. I am very glad that I don't actually have to go into too much detail in this scene, as it would be a bit over my head.

As Bolero pointed out, one key element here is that my POV character in the story is not an insider. That means that if the suits aren't labeled, he isn't going to know what they are. He is much more likely to comment (the voice is first person but it is pure fiction, not an article) on a flamboyant watch or the color of a tie. At least, that's what I'm getting from the comments here.

I am partly looking for identifiers for characters who he meets but doesn't have names for. (The guy with the .... watch said "..." that sort of thing.) He's mostly being quiet and observing the conversation. He is there with an insider who is sort of showing him the ropes, although that is a simplistic explanation of a complicated plot. So, can anyone say what such a savvy but non-insider character would notice about watches or accessories? Is one perhaps studded with diamonds?

As for the individuality and field, this is probably a lot of finance people, some pharma, oil and even weapons interests (though realistically a lot of these are within the same companies), a couple of people from media but that would be fringe. The meeting at the club is politically related and that is the focus of the plot. The specifics of the companies involved are less important, compared to their lobbying interests. And again, I have avoided having to go into great detail on things I'm not well-versed with. I'd like the scene to ring nominally true to someone who has been in such gatherings, if I can pull that off. I don't even know if I need food or entertainment really. It is more of a networking situation. Yes, it would generally be considered "work" but it is primarily about political work.

Okay, here's another more substantial question. I wouldn't even ask, except some here seem enthusiastic enough. There are some absolutely top level guys in this scene. From my experience they play pretty sophisticated and when they do politics it always looks like they are in control and having a good time. But then there are their hangers-on, still powerful people in their own right but not the top. There are quite a few of these characters at the event as well and one of these has acquired something that stands to give him and his boss a huge political and even financial advantage. At this point, everyone knows about it and there are some crumbs to be had by sucking up to this character, if you are also a hanger-on. The big shots may be sucking up to his boss in their own way for political reasons but that isn't the part of the scene we see, so it isn't as important. Can anyone give me any pointers on what would constitute trying to wiggle one's way into friendship with this guy, by people of similar or slightly lower status. I'm picturing them gathered around, listening to him go on and on, acting like he knows it all. Maybe someone hands him a drink? Comments?

Thanks again for comments.

01-26-2014, 05:29 AM
Although the name brands and expensive watches and dinners are all fun details, remember that some of these guys (and they are mostly guys that's for sure) do not know or care one bit about the trappings of wealth. They are in it because they thrive on the work they do--wheeling, dealing, building their legacy. The longer they've been rich usually the less they care about impressing others with their wealth.

I know a very rich powerful man who is the founder and CEO of a gigantic corporation. He grew up wealthy. He is a very unassuming guy and you would never ever guess who he is if you saw him on the street driving his Subaru (yes, he also has some crazy sportscar I don't know the name of but he rarely drives it). but despite the fact that he really doesn't care about showing off his wealth, he is very driven, a workaholic and completely addicted to success. It's just that for him, the trappings of success mean far less than securing his legacy.

Alessandra Kelley
01-26-2014, 06:22 AM
Prada is flashy. High-powered women of those business circles carry Hermès bags, ideally the top of the line, almost-unattainable "Birkin" model, or discreet vintage Chanel bags. To the uninitiated they are ordinary-looking, even plain leather handbags. Only those who know them know they cost as much as a good used car. It's like a secret club.

Karen Junker
01-26-2014, 06:27 AM
My son repairs high-end watches -- PM me and I'll get your email so I can ask him the names of some of them and how you recognize them. If you wanted to throw in a detail like that...