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Illustration: Hannah Buckman for Bloomberg Businessweek
Businessweek
The Big Take

Juul Finds Hell Hath No Fury Like an Army of Really Rich Parents

If you want to turn a secretive hedge fund manager and his deep-pocketed allies into activists, hook their kids on vaping. An excerpt from the new book The Devil’s Playbook.

Atherton, Calif., once a quiet whistle-stop along the Southern Pacific Railroad, is situated 30 miles south of San Francisco and minutes from downtown Palo Alto. Fewer than 10,000 people live there, many of them behind tall hedges and forbidding gates. It’s the wealthiest city in America, with an average annual income above $525,000, and its residents have included some of the world’s most famous technology executives, including Eric Schmidt from Google and Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook. NBA star Stephen Curry bought a $31 million estate there. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen had one worth $35 million.

In comparison, Kevin Burns’s stately home in an Atherton neighborhood called King Estates seemed modest. Toward the end of the summer in 2017, Burns was sitting in the kitchen with his son and some of his son’s friends. They were students at Palo Alto High School—Paly, as it’s known by locals.