Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rich Homes. Richer Names.

The Wealthy Man’s Dictionary is very unlike yours or mine. The 300,000 odd words listed there are invariably synonyms and antonyms for one of 4 things – Pleasure, Prestige, Publicity, or Profit.

Even these 4Ps have a very different connotation in Mr. Richie Rich’s world. Pleasure, for example, would mean commissioning a photo shoot for a swimsuit calendar. Prestige would mean outbidding a peer for an unworthy cricket star in an IPL auction. Publicity would mean schmoozing with an arm candy half-your-age in a Page 3 do. And Profit would mean building an expensive home with an exotic name.

Antilia is a shimmering case study for the billionaire’s Fourth P. When Mukesh Ambani unveiled his now famous 173-meter, 27-floor home on Altamont Road in South Mumbai, replete with an ice room, yoga studio, hanging gardens, 9 elevators and 3 helipads, it was pegged as a 70 million dollar home. The location (10th most expensive street in the world), the name (Antilia is said to be a mythical island in the Atlantic), and the buzz associated with it, have today, upped the market value to a few billion dollars!

Now this value appreciation wouldn’t have been possible if the building had been named Ambani House or Mukesh Nivas. The conscious choice of an almost international-brand like appellation shows the faith Dhirubhai’s beta has in the aura-enhancing-power of a mystical name.

Jennifer Aniston had similar calculations, when she tagged her 10,000 sq ft Beverly Hills home as Ohana (Hawaiian word for ‘extended family’). Having bought the house at $13.5 million in 2006, the former Friends star is now selling Ohana at 42 million! If the home had been another nameless manor, I doubt if she could have charged this premium.

The tendency to view homes as luxury brands has triggered a veritable naming contest among celebrities. Oprah’s called her estate, The Promised Land. Mel Gibson has named his Malibu mansion, Lavender Hill Farm. Spielberg’s picked Quelle Farm. While Bill Gates has opted for The Ecology House. The Bottom Line: The next time you build a bungalow, remember to home in on a snazzy label.