The Big Business of Being Sergey Brin
Running Sergey Brin’s family affairs is a full-time job—and it takes dozens of people. The Google co-founder, who’s worth about $30 billion, has ex-bankers and philanthropy experts working at his family office, Bayshore Global Management. Brin also has employed a former Navy SEAL for security, a yacht captain, a fitness coordinator, a photographer, and an archivist, according to profiles on LinkedIn.
Bayshore, based in Los Altos, Calif., shows how family offices, set up to manage money for the wealthy, also help them with every aspect of their daily lives. As the number of billionaires has swelled in recent years, so have opportunities for people who can cater to the needs of the wealthy and be discreet about it. “Family offices are expanding, and people are setting new ones up,” says Natasha Pearl, chief executive officer of Aston Pearl, a consulting firm serving single-family offices that manage at least $400 million. “It’s increasing demand for employees who can be trusted to keep the families’ private lives confidential.”
There are now more than 14,600 families with at least $100 million in assets globally, up 42 percent since 2008, according to Boston Consulting Group. Many of these have set up their own offices to help manage their investments and day-to-day lives. The firms employ about 20,000 people worldwide, according to researcher Campden Wealth, which started collecting the data last year. The family offices serving billionaires usually have at least 50 people on staff and multiple teams including executive, administrative, and investment groups.
Vulcan, the Seattle company started by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his sister, Jody Allen, employs more than 500 people. Its ranks include an in-house media company, a 17-member unit managing a multibillion-dollar investment portfolio, sports teams, and a division that’s working on space travel. Vulcan is in the process of hiring a chief investment officer and a wildlife conservation expert, among other positions. Allen, who’s worth $16.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, named Vulcan after the Roman god of fire. He’s also a Star Trek fan.
Bayshore takes its name from North Bayshore, the section of Mountain View, Calif., where Google has its headquarters. It’s existed since at least 2006, two years after Google went public. It has recruited employees from Google, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and other family offices, according to LinkedIn profiles of people who say they work for Bayshore. It has employed at least 47 people, according to U.S. Department of Labor filings. These include a chief of staff and manager of the family’s New York City home, who oversaw construction, recruited domestic staff, and provided personal shopping. Bayshore representatives declined to comment on its operations.
Brin, 41, who came to the U.S. from the Soviet Union as a child with his family, is the 21st-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. With his wife, Anne, he runs the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, which disburses charitable donations and supports human rights. He also owns Passerelle Investment, a real estate investment firm, which has bought properties in Los Altos to help revitalize the town for businesses and families.
Bayshore also has a professional group dedicated to the family’s physical safety. It includes the former Navy SEAL to provide protection, a former U.S. Secret Service agent to direct security operations, and a former SWAT team leader to oversee the family’s properties and emergency procedures.
Some of the largest family offices have operation centers to monitor people and property, says Christopher Falkenberg, a former Secret Service agent and founder of Insite Security, which provides protection services. There are layers of personnel including former military and law enforcement experts who are responsible for locks on doors and gates, background checks on staff, and managing travel and aircraft security, he says, and they don’t come cheap: A security director who’s a former FBI agent can earn at least $200,000 a year.
Salaries at family offices vary widely, says Pearl, whose firm has helped families hire cybersecurity experts, find college advisers, and create procedures for staff. Private chefs can command salaries from $40,000 to as much as $200,000 a year with full benefits, depending on whether they have top restaurant experience and have worked with other wealthy families. “It’s not like the ‘blue book,’ where you look up chief risk officers or chefs and there are standard comp rates,” Pearl says. “It’s a very fragmented market.”
The bottom line: Brin’s Bayshore Global Management has employed at least 47 people to tend to his financial and personal affairs.