Alexander Proud on Modern CEOs

Alexander Proud says that if you want to peek into the lives of the rich and richer, take a look at their online planning applications.

The business magnates who buy up whole rows in Mayfair and then apply to knock them all into one monstrosity with an Olympic pool in the basement, along with cinema and spa and several self contained flats for the staff (the bare minimum you can’t live without).

Alexander Proud notes that they don’t really care if the neighbours object, because quite frankly money speaks louder than anything else at all, particularly in the better parts of London.

Alexander Proud asks when the boring businessmen and top-tier accountants stopped buying old piles in the countryside and started trying to be rockstars who build iceberg houses and showing off like Saudi princes?

CEOs have changed, says Alex Proud

“Back in the 70s, 80s and even into the 90s our commercial top brass belonged to the upper tiers of the middle classes. They lived comparatively modestly. You probably wouldn’t know that they ran a massive company unless they told you.” says Alexander Proud. Wealth wasn’t cool, it was just wealth. They might have a Jaguar in the drive, maybe two, maybe even some fabulous photography like the prints we have at Proud Galleries. They supported local charities, and their children might go to private schools but they were respectable, upstanding, and proud of their suit collection.

“Perhaps the simple answer is that many modern CEOs choose to live like rock stars because they can nowadays.” says Alexander Proud. “They are not beholden to any kind of social contract, they don’t care what people think, and they don’t have any morals to uphold publicly. In the same way that businessmen can also have tattoos and go clubbing, they can spend lavishly and live shamelessly. 

These days corporate bosses aspire to be TV personalities like Alan Sugar or Peter Jones. People like Paul Allen have who-has-the-biggest-yacht competitions with Roman Abromavich. Corporate bosses book rockstars for their birthday parties and hang out with supermodels.

Alexander Proud says that the whole biz-celebrity axis is getting really weird.

A trip back in time


“When I ran an art gallery in the 90s, business sponsorship formed a huge chunk of my income – and one of the biggest draws for the sponsoring companies was that the bosses got to hang out with the celebs. I wondered at the time ‘why are these CEOs acting like teenage girls at a rock concert?’ and do they know that they look like weird old guy stalkers following pop stars and fashion models around, craving their attention and wanting to be part of their crew. It’s not exactly pervy, just awkward and a bit wrong, what my teenagers would call ‘embarrassing’”

Alexander Proud says that running a music venue cured him of any personal desire to hang out with famous people. They’re often polite, and they smile and pretend to listen to your jokes, but it’s cringeworthy hanging off their every word and trying to be cool by association says Alexander Proud. They don’t really care, they’re paid to be there, and if you do actually get to know them 9/10 they are no more or less interesting than your business associates.

Interestingly, observes Alexander Proud, as the corporate bores get exposed in the tabloid press for taking drugs, and paying for nightly pleasure, it’s the rock stars who are launching wellness brands, going on yoga retreats, drinking green juices and lining up to be Unicef ambassadors.

Now there is little distinction between rich rock stars and rich business owners says Alexander Proud:

“While today’s CEOs are a lot more like celebrities, today’s celebrities are a lot more like CEOs; launching companies, rebranding themselves, taking investment advice.”

There are of course more modest magnates like Warren Buffet, but increasingly they are unfortunately not the norm, says Alexander Proud.

Alexander Proud quotes a billionaire tech investor and Stanford Professor called David Cheriton on this subject. When asked why he didn’t live alongside the other tech titans in a Silicon Valley palace, he responded:

“I’m actually quite offended by that sort of thing. These people who build houses with 13 bathrooms and so on, there's something wrong with them.”