No Different than You or Me, After All: The Wealthy and the Coronavirus Crisis

No Different than You or Me, After All: The Wealthy and the Coronavirus Crisis

The coronavirus crisis is touching even the toughest of souls.

A good friend of ours at an aggressive venture capital firm has been setting his sights on affairs in one of the Central Asians republics. He was ready to travel this month, hoping to sign a deal, but he cancelled the trip. His boss didn’t squawk, colleagues were supportive and his potential partners over yonder were surprisingly quiescent.

Everyone involved has a family and most have young children at home. Lucrative business can wait these days, it seems, even for the hardest driving of dealmakers. First things first.

It isn’t base fear that motivates this caution. Rather, it’s the lack of clarity on the virus. We know that nearly 3,000 lives have been lost, but even the commonest flu outbreaks, the kind we see every winter, can do worse. The response of healthcare officials globally, the expense incurred and the willingness to accept economic pain are catching people’s attentions, though. In an environment of uncertainty, better safe than sorry seems the prudent choice.

Take the case of Ken Langone, who founded Home Depot with four partners back in 1978. He’s been richly rewarded for his efforts. When coronavirus hit the newswires, he was concerned, particularly given his age – the elderly are vulnerable to any virus strain. Langone wasn’t sure if he could trust the news media, and although he’s a major Republican Party contributor, he didn’t necessarily accept the administration’s reports, either – politics are politics, after all.

Langone felt he had a solid option for uncovering the true dope on coronavirus: a trusted source in the healthcare field, if ever there was one. He dropped the figurative dime and rang up NYU Langone Health – if you and your wife donate $200 million, the hospital changes its name. His call went right to the top and he got the straight story: “As of now it’s a bad flu,” Langone reports. If he ever contracts the virus, he says, he’ll know where to go for treatment.

Whether or not he’d receive special treatment – Langone says he wouldn’t expect it, though we doubt he’d be cooling his Gucci heels in any waiting room – the rich are commonly expected to use their wealth and power to avoid the turmoil and suffering the rest of us cannot avoid. It makes perfect sense, we concede, but it’s galling, nevertheless. In stressful times, the wealthy’s largess in support of healthcare and other worthy causes is swiftly forgotten.

Dr. Tim Kruse, who plies his trade in Aspen, Colorado – nice work, even in an epidemic – insists the rich won’t get access to better care than the general public. His high-net-worth clientele have been aggressively calling, he says, hoping for word of a vaccine, perhaps with ‘boutique’ access. Dr. Kruse’s answer is a firm if likely solicitous ‘no’ – there’s simply no silver bullet to kill coronavirus as yet. He doesn’t blame patients for asking: it’s a case of simple curiosity, he says.

One anonymous mogul, who owns his own hedge fund (suggesting perhaps he has a bunker somewhere), has a curious plan if coronavirus goes nuclear: when people start fleeing, he’ll dash the other way. His second home in Italy might be the destination, he says – normally a no brainer for a getaway, but the virus is rampant there and the CDC has warned against visiting, let alone hunkering down. We suspect our hedge funder is used to contrarian thinking and has been richly rewarded for going his own way. Perhaps he’s onto something, but his sales pitch yet hasn’t turned us into buyers.

For more information, please read:
Can We Get a Vaccine Early? How the Rich Are Preparing for Coronavirus | Wealth Management

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