A Magazine for the Filthy Rich
"tycoons" need a magazine to verify their status?
Are having offshore investments, a trophy wife, spoiled kids, vacations spent being pampered by the natives, $95,000 watches, double-barreled shotguns made of gold and your own private international bank not good enough indicators anymore?
If they need the ego boost, they couldn’t do much better than Tycoon, a three-year-old quarterly (soon to be monthly) magazine put out by the SCG Custom Publishing, Inc., whose other publications include The Ritz-Carlton Magazine, Trump Style and Executive Mansions. The magazine strives to provide a "fresh, brash" alternative to affluent lifestyle magazines like Robb Report, a 33-year-old publication that caters to the spending whims of the wealthy. With a circulation of about 100,000, it has made inroads as the inflight magazine for private jets.
Tycoon looks and reads as if it were one long advertorial for the planes, trains and automobiles within, as well as for its readers’ egos.
The magazine is so enamored of its advertisers that it’s tough to tell whether you’re reading an article, an advertorial or a sidebar. You keep expecting to see "special advertising section" banners but they’re nowhere to be found.
The magazine’s near complete reliance on stock photography furthers its image as an advertorial. Some artistic choices are odd, to put it diplomatically. A spread profiling David Gilmour (the Canadian owner of Fiji Water, not the Pink Floyd guitarist) leads with a photo of Gilmour and his wife on Wakaya Island, which he owns. The couple smiles in the foreground while traditionally-dressed, dark-skinned natives of Wakaya glower behind them in the oh-so-feral-way of savages.
Aside from the editorial/advertorial confusion, at least one article is a downright embarrassment for the magazine. Three white men — one with a machete — play safari on the cover. They also play farmer in a photo spread within, as they harvest $20 bills from the dirt.
"Millionaire 101" profiles the founders of a multi-level marketing company, the Institute of Global Prosperity (IGP), that sells audio tapes and off-shore seminars about the supposed illegality of income tax and assorted gems of tax evasion. What it doesn’t mention is that "multi-level marketing" actually means "pyramid scheme." (Can anyone say "Albania"?) The writer of the article urges skeptics to "hop on the Internet and research."
Such research reveals that IGP has "cease and desist" orders outstanding against it in eight states, most of which levy fines, upwards of $25,000, for each attempt it makes to peddle its services. The Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission are
currently investigating the company. "48 Hours" featured IGP in a January segment about cybercrime. There’s even a Web site devoted to exposing the company’s corrupt practices which includes testimonials from people who have been bilked out of thousands of dollars.
One victim who called Tycoon magazine to find out why it featured IGP says he was told by an editor that IGP had bought advertising. Managing Editor David Tyda said that many of the magazine’s stories are pitched by freelancers. He also said that he couldn’t answer questions over the phone as to whether the staff knew of IGP’s illegal activities before running the article. He added that the misstep was "a first for Tycoon — and a last."
Typical features include stories on a $359,000 Rolls Royce that really should be experienced from the "seat of the owner" — the back; how the children of the rich suffer since tycoons "can’t afford to devote our skills to things which don’t make money" because, well, they spend all of their time making money (and "which" should be "that," you ninny, it’s called a restrictive clause); and trophy wives who count on their old coots to be little boys in need of coddling by nubile sirens. Nods to altruism in a few of the articles don’t redeem the overall tone.
On a brighter note, Tycoon provides yet another entertaining chapter in the everlasting saga of old guard money versus nouveau riche. The magazine exhibits all the gaucheness and unabashed glee in phenomenal wealth that always struck old money as tacky. Old money behaved — and still behaves — as though it were unseemly to make grand displays of wealth, particularly in sight of the plebians who constitute 97 percent of the world’s population. Don’t stir up the riffraff, m’dear. And however irredeemably elitist that notion might be, at least the goodies aren’t flaunted in front of the rest of us.
None of that sensibility is apparent in Tycoon. The magazine should heed the lesson of the Pierides, who tried to one-up the Muses: for the arrogant attempt to prove they were better singers than the Muses, the nine sisters were turned into magpies, condemned forever to screech their sour, atonal tunes between flightless wings.
Tycoon is a magpie with the strut of a peacock.