Real Housewives of NYC

Discussion in 'Economics' started by marketsurfer, Mar 2, 2009.


    As we all know there are now “real housewives” in Orange County, California, Atlanta and, of course, here in New York City. On TV, they all appear to be living daffy lives of excess, brazenly baring everything from the cards in their wallets, to their surgically enhanced torsos to their parenting skills, to their social aspirations.

    There is very little that is real about these women (or at least how their lives are edited for television). The Real wives (and husbands too) that I know today probably would not want a camera following them around 24/7 with so much volatility and uncertainty for so many.

    Of course we all like to poke a little fun at the TV housewives—I suspect that in some strange way that is the reason they have been put on TV in the first place. They may also dislike they way they are portrayed on their shows, but I guess that was the bargain they made.

    In any event, there is another subset of real wives in New York that I’d like you to meet (as always, I use composites), and right about now they could all use a little fun. For several years these ladies met regularly for lunch most Fridays at Fred’s on the 9th Floor of Barneys New York.

    From the minute Sasha, Ashley, Grigsby and Jeannie slipped into the banquette, their conversations had the easy flow of good friends with a shared Manhattan lifestyle and experience. The talk immediately turned into a discussion of their current obsessions, details of their lives and their mutual friends and enemies.

    They are the real wives of New York whom I know. They have money, multiple homes, serious philanthropic pursuits and social status. Their weekly ninety minute gatherings was the perfect package of their existence. The atmosphere and food accentuated it, with the towering tray of French country bread delicately served with silver tongs along with extra virgin olive oil for dipping, and the paper cone of Belgian Pomme Frites placed in front of them like a fresh cut flower arrangement. They always split a Fred’s Chopped Chicken Salad and a Nicoise salad, with extra balsamic vinaigrette and mustard lemon dressing on the side. Even the Diet Coke with lemon somehow tasted better there.

    After lunch anyone who didn’t have a school pick up or an appointment rode the escalator down to the main floor, absentmindedly roaming the floors, picking up a D L & Co candle in Chelsea Passage across the hall, or a pair of Louboutins on 4, or a pair of Me and Ro earrings on the main floor.

    Lately, though, lunch has had a distinctly different edge. They still dish about the very latest—Hudson jeans, Hamptons real estate, Blow Uptown, Wexler 3 in 1 eye cream, and who had been “madoffed”—but there clearly has been a wariness on the part of each about revealing too many details of how they were faring in the downturn.

    In some cases a husband had specifically warned a wife to keep quiet with her friends -- not wanting the smell of blood to let others know they were in distress. In other cases personal pride has kept them from talking too much. Others were doing fine but felt guilty having the same conversations that they would have had in years past. Sure, they talked about cutting back, but in a manner that fit what W Magazine might have on a list of “ins” and “outs.”


    OUT: Pre ordering the Prada Fall '09 bag in April
    IN: Quiet dinner parties at home for 8 OUT: Dinners for 40 at Le Cirque
    IN: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance OUT: The Official Filthy Rich Handbook

    Thus lunch, which once was non-stop gabbing and gossiping, now has those awkward moments of silence when subjects came up that intrude on someone’s very private concerns and unrest. Here are their stories:

    Sasha Silver. Sasha was the only woman in the group who worked. She has spent the last 17 years at a boutique investment bank. But lately she has been truly at her limit. The firm was sold several years before to a publicly traded foreign-based asset management company so everyone from the top down has been living in fear and awe of the parent company.

    Sasha was good at her job. She had a great perspective on the strategy, a unique ability to execute on any plan, and was liked both by clients and many of her colleagues, especially other women. She was their champion. She also has four children in three different schools on the Upper East Side, an active philanthropic social life in New York and has frequently been seen out and about.

    Many of her male peers, however, have gone out of their way to derail her at work. She’s observed more than once that men, once they’d left school and couldn’t hit each other with bats and balls, turned into the biggest bunch of backstabbing, clique-ish and petty high school girls she’d ever seen. From what she could tell, it wasn’t having the talent that got you to the top of a company with these men, it was the political gamesmanship.

    Several months ago the CEO of the parent company had sent word down that Sasha be given a meaningful leadership role in the firm. She was made Vice Chair. But rather than continue to oversee the private client group as she had in the past, she was given what she referred to jokingly as the girly staff stuff - overseeing Human Resources and Communications. Her Co-Vice Chair was given all the “line” businesses - those that generated revenues on top of the businesses he was already overseeing.

    Through 2008, as assets declined, revenues and profits became all the more critical. Sasha was frequently told she needed to present plans for downsizing staff, and then usually was expected to execute it alone. Terminating person after person -- some of whom had worked at the company longer than she, and some of whom reported to her male counterpart (without his being at the meetings to share the burden of terminating them) -- was draining and dreadful.

    She often wept afterwards. Unfortunately while she was taking care of this the CEO and other Vice Chair always seemed to be scheduling strategy and business development meetings, often with the parent company executives.

    It was agonizing for Sasha to see nearly two decades of work wrested from her as she endured the process of being completely marginalized. Lately, she had for the first time seriously considered resigning. She also knew she could easily be included on a termination list herself, especially if the boys had their way. If that were the case, she figured, the wisest thing would be to hang on, retain a top notch employment attorney, and get a nice fat severance. Given her status as the top female in the company, God knows the men would be terrified of her filing an action. With her 401k, company deferred comp plan and options now so far underwater she certainly could use a severance.

    Sasha’s husband had done all right last year, but he was working at what is now a TARP-funded firm and so he didn’t know what was going to happen with his compensation. Regardless, for someone so driven and capable as Sasha, it was difficult to come to work every day and find she was being pushed further into a corner. .........
  2. Feel free to look up who LuAnn DeLesseps married on Wikipedia.