I almost fell off my chair at breakfast this morning when I read a story The New York Post published about Jerry Della Femina, one of the most creative guys in the advertising business, being forced to sell his $25 million house in East Hampton because of President Obama’s fiscal policies. Della Femina blamed Obama for his financial woes. He was quoted as saying “I want the proceeds of this sale to go to my kids and my grandkids. I don’t want my money going to Obama, and that’s what’s going to happen in the New Year. That’s why I sold right now, that’s why I wanted to get this done.”
The Rupert Murdoch owned newspaper explained, “A fall off the fiscal cliff could trigger a 40 percent rise in taxes on short-term investments and a 5 percent spike in taxes on long-term capital gains.” The legendary ad man was the genius behind Meow Mix and Absolut Vodka campaigns. The 8,500 square-foot house sold for $25 million even though those in the know claim it was on the block for years for $40 million.
I met Jerry 25 years ago when he and I worked for BellSouth as independent agencies. He had the advertising portion and I had the PR. We were working on the precursor for Blackberry. Jerry and I introduced the first wireless email device into the world. The unit was the size of a brick and everyone at the time said no one wanted wireless email. He worked very hard to prove everyone wrong. We didn’t know the answers ourselves but we had a great client, Janet Boudris, who could clearly see the future.
Because of that working relationship, I was in Jerry’s company a lot. There wasn’t a minute that he wasn’t absolutely sensational. Clever as clever could be. Eliot and I went to his East Hampton home a few times so we know the house he is talking about. Honestly, the New York Post is calling the house a mansion or estate, but from my recollection it was a nice, sizeable home. The location was outstanding. I have been to many homes on the ocean but Jerry’s house was in an exceptional spot. It was situated on a cliff with a full view of the ocean from every window in the house and certainly every spot around his pool.
Jerry’s comment about being forced to sell the house because of the fiscal cliff is totally unfair. Jerry is probably selling the house because as we all get older, we don’t want to carry the overhead we did in the heyday of our careers. How do I know this? Because it is happening to me and many people I know, who lived a fast lane life with fast lane expenses. Jerry owns a fabulous NYC townhouse plus several homes in Palm Beach. He probably looked at the monthly money coming in and what was going out. As we get older something has to give. East Hampton was the most sensible to go.
To blame Obama is absolutely ridiculous, but that is Jerry’s spin. I just couldn’t sit back and read that BS in the Post. Blame old age. We still may be relevant and creative but we may not be able to generate money like we did in our 40s and 50s, certainly not in the advertising and PR business. The new kid on the block is raking in the dough.