In an upstairs room in London's plush St James's district, around 30 people mostly in their 20s chatted politely in fluent English, their accents Russian, Arabic, South Asian and Chinese. After a three-course dinner of salmon and roast lamb, the program began: a role-play in which teams bid in an imaginary auction for various works of art.
A crew of experts was on hand to advise on the value of the pieces. The bidding gathered pace. Staff took fake phone calls and bid on behalf of "mystery buyers." A young woman shouted encouragement in Arabic. One team bid hard, driving prices far higher than the recommended valuations. At the last minute they pulled out, landing rivals with an exorbitant bill. A large plasma screen showed the real-life bidding going on downstairs. George Stubbs' "Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath" sold for 22.4 million pounds ($35 million), making it the third most valuable Old Master ever sold at auction.
For the young would-be buyers, the event was one of a series of workshops aimed at grooming them for the responsibilities of inheriting vast wealth. A taster of how to invest in alternatives to stocks and bonds, the session showed how some of their 'high net worth' parents are protecting their wealth from the market ructions of the financial crisis...It only gets crazier from there.