Got $10M? Seattle Chapter of Tiger 21 May Be For You (Part 1)

12/12/08Follow @gthuang

Think the super-rich don’t have problems? Try fending off friends and relatives who always want to borrow money, or raising spoiled brats who don’t take responsibility for their actions. Not to mention the more obvious financial questions of how to manage such hefty portfolios—especially in economic times like these. (Granted, some of this might be viewed as insensitive at a time when local food banks are running out of food.)

Enter Tiger 21, an exclusive network for the very wealthy that is opening in Seattle this month. Its goal is to provide a support group for people of high net worth to talk about their investments, portfolios, and problems. Local entrepreneur and investor Andy Sack of Founder’s Co-op will be chairing the Seattle chapter of the national group. Last month, I sat down with Sack and Lewis Haskell, the managing director who runs Tiger 21 west of the Mississippi. I’m a little under-qualified to speak on the problems of the wealthy, but Sack and Haskell filled me in nicely.

First, some background. Tiger 21 was founded in New York in 1999 by Michael Sonnenfeldt. Sonnenfeldt had recently sold his interest in Emmes & Company, a real estate holdings company, for tens of millions, and was looking to build a safe haven for people in similar circumstances to meet and talk. The confidential network has grown into a big business. Besides New York, Tiger 21 has existing chapters in some of the country’s wealthiest places—San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Miami. It has about 170 members who have an average net worth between $30 million and $50 million.

And that’s the catch: to join Tiger 21, you have to have at least $10 million, exclusive of houses, cars, and other properties (how they verify this, I’m not sure). And it costs $30,000 a year to be a member. All members sign confidentiality agreements.

Sack’s connection with the group is through its founder. Back at MIT around 15 years ago, Sonnenfeldt was Sack’s mentor at the Sloan School of Management, and the two have invested together. Seattle brings some unique challenges to the very wealthy, Sack says. They might be overexposed because the community is relatively small. “The network of support is not as high, or as sophisticated, in Seattle,” he adds.

With the likes of Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Nathan Myhrvold, Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz, Craig McCaw, and Jim Jannard (founder of Oakley eyewear) in the area, you’d think Washington state would have such a support network in place already. But what Tiger 21 provides that other wealthy social networks don’t is a focus on members sharing how they manage their financial lives, says Haskell.

As for its future Seattle members, Sack and Haskell have been recruiting for about 10 openings. I’m guessing they’re not taking unsolicited applications. Sack says members have to have an interest in learning, and be willing to be open with their peers. And, he added, “There’s a ‘no asshole’ rule.”

Stay tuned for what goes on behind Tiger 21′s closed doors in Part 2—Eds.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • mike mccarthy

    I was a member of the NYC group and found it to be of little investment help to me. The members are mostly wealthy people looking for investment advice. Getting 12 members with similar questions together isn’t any kind of solution to their needs. Its 12 guys keeping each other company on the titanic. The “portfolio defense” was of some value to me to help me review my own total holdings and asset allocation. But I found I got precious little credible feedback from the other members in my group. Remember they are there looking for investment advice I was.

    The one meaningful thing i took away from the few meetings I attended was, that what asset mix and portfolio allocation that is right for each person is so specific to the individual, and that nobody but that individual can decide whats is right for them. Further, I came to the conclusion that my portfolio was fine as it was, and that any doubt I might have had as to its appropriateness for me, was gone. Save your $30,000 and trust your self and your investment advisors…………..