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January 5, 2010

US Special

By Spear's

The signs are not hard to read: all roads lead East. China and India are rising, the West is experiencing senescence and obsolescence, and all our children should be learning Mandarin instead of French.

As far as it goes, that’s a realistic scenario. But consider GDP: in 2008, China’s GDP was $4.3 trillion, making it third in the world, and India’s was $1.2 trillion, or twelfth in the world. America’s was $14.4 trillion. Consider wealth too: in the Forbes 100 of February 2009, there were 38 American billionaires, the lowest coming in at $5.0 billion – and no Chinese billionaires. India had seven, two in the top ten.

That’s why we are delving into the American wealth scene: it is still the most powerful in the world. Daisy Prince, our US Editor, traces the history of an institution which emerged from the leveraged buyouts of the eighties to bring incredible wealth to families: the multi-family office. In America, Daisy says, ‘The European tradition of the trusted private banker had never quite taken hold.’

Christopher Silvester reports on the plight of tax havens as they face a legislative and financial onslaught from the US, with politicians determined to act (and to be seen to act) on tax evasion. Where can monied Americans seeking financial secrecy and the light touch of the taxman now turn?

As seems peculiarly American, business and art are intimately intertwined: Anthony Haden-Guest interviews Asher Edelman, ‘Wall Street raider metamorphosed into art dealer’. From being one of the earliest collectors of contemporary American art even as he swooped on companies, providing the model for Gordon Gekko, Edelman has now invented his own link in the art/business nexus: he guarantees art up for auction, taking the same approach to Roy Lichtenstein as he once did to leverage.

Finally, Penelope Bennett proves that while Daisy may have been right about American private banking in the eighties, the scene has changed. Penelope scans the United States from coast to coast to learn what’s on the mind of private bankers and profiles three of the best.

So will it be stars and stripes forever? Perhaps not, as we enter the Asian century, but for the moment when it comes to wealth, we look West.

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