WITH their wealth, status and successful careers, you would think the last thing the well-heeled and well-off have to worry about is finding Mr or Mrs Right.
Indeed you might imagine that their biggest worry would probably be finding a big enough stick to beat off all the people desperate to snare them for a date.
But it seems the old saying that life’s lonely at the top could be heartbreakingly accurate – and the better-off are finding it harder than ever to find the love of their lives.
Now, rather than face being left on the top shelf with just their piles of cash to keep them company, Scotland’s high earners, well known celebrities and top ranking professionals are finding their hard-earned money actually can buy them love – and are splashing out upwards of £10,000 a year to sign up with an exclusive “headhunter” style matchmaker agency.
Elite agency Berkeley International has just added Edinburgh to a global list of offices that includes, among others, Cannes, Brussels, Melbourne, New York and Milan. In each area office, staff sift through members’ details and carefully hand pick and match them with other members for dates.
According to Emma Budgen, who runs the new Edinburgh base – the matchmaking agency’s only UK office outside of London – there is a healthy demand from Scottish high earners who simply don’t have the time, the right social network, or the desire to dodge the hen parties in George Street on a Saturday night in the search for prospective partners.
And for them, forking out £10,000 – rising to £40,000 if they want to “headhunt” a husband or wife internationally – to join the elite agency in search of a date, is barely a drop in the financial ocean.
“The people we have are the kind who do not miss £10,000 coming out of their bank account. The amount of money doesn’t bother them,” says Emma, who works with A-list clients across Scotland and the north of England.
“In Scotland alone we have three to four hundred people on our books and it’s steadily growing all the time. In Edinburgh we already have a pool of people going through the matching process.
“What we’ve found are our members in Edinburgh are generally very busy and spend a lot of time travelling. They are in the financial industry, the legal profession, and a lovely mix of entrepreneurs who are very busy running their own businesses and maintaining them. We have a number of academics and land owners – a very broad mixture of people and a good balance of men and women.”
In spite of the recent recession, Edinburgh’s reputation for above average earnings and its pool of well-heeled moneyed professionals persuaded the agency to expand into the city. And further afield it seems there’s plenty of demand from rich lonely hearts – the agency’s global membership has grown by 25 per cent in the last six months, with 3000 members in the UK alone.
According to one Edinburgh businessman who has signed up, the eye-watering membership fee is similar to what he might spend joining an exclusive “members only” club. “I have nurtured my businesses which naturally takes time, the subsequent success of these finds me in a fortunate financial position,” he explains. “I want to meet ‘my partner’, but work is not an environment where I can mix personal relationships, so I needed to find somewhere I can go to meet the right potential partner for me.”
The company boss – who did not want to be named – has interests in the textile trade in Edinburgh, London and China. He says the agency means he can meet people in other cities. “So I can capitalise on social time, wherever I am,” he adds.
“I spend much of my working week at the moment travelling between my businesses, however I meet new people all of the time and I have a healthy social life.
“But the people I am meeting are likely to be work related and my social life is spent with close friends and not on the look-out for my future wife.”
Emma says many of the agency’s clients are stuck in a similar rut. “They are busy people who live very busy lives. They work in a close bubble and have a small social bubble, too. They find they are not interacting with the people they may want to form a personal relationship with.
“Because they are high profile they don’t want to use the internet dating agencies. They want to keep it very private, so they come to us.”
The organisation, which charges clients £25,000 if they want to broaden their search for love across Europe, rising to £40,000 if they are hunting even further afield, includes actors, entrepreneurs, media professionals, bankers, judges and academics among its clients.
But simply having a bulging bank balance and good job is no guarantee of being allowed to join the ultra- exclusive agency – for each member is carefully vetted, even down to their passport details, salary and personal likes, before being allowed to join.
“We ensure people are the right kind of people. We are not ‘sugardaddy.com’ or ‘cougars anonymous’,” Emma adds.
For while the rest of us stress about finding enough spare cash to fund our night out, Emma points out that part of the rich man or wealthy woman’s problem at the nightclub or bar is finding someone who isn’t simply in it for their money.
“It’s not necessarily the places they go that are the issue,” says Emma, agreeing that Edinburgh has a wealth of quality bars and restaurants packed with high earners.
“It’s that they get there and there’s no-one there for them. Or they meet someone they fancy and find they are a gold digger.
“Gentlemen are finding it difficult to find the right calibre of lady.
“The nightclubs they go to are places they know they won’t find the calibre of lady they want to spend the rest of their lives with.
“Many people at this level have quite bad experiences,” she adds.
“Gentlemen can be very easily led by the look of a good-looking woman. We provide a safeguard.”
And with most already working in professions that regularly employ headhunters to track down key staff, they think nothing of employing a private cupid for their personal lives.
Adds Emma: “Clients are usually very high up in their profession or they may be well known in the media.
“They don’t want to be seen using an agency, it’s not something they might want to broadcast – they may be judges or well known.
“Our fees are a good way to filter people. We need to make sure that people are living a good lifestyle like our other members, and they’re successful, too.
“Ten thousand pounds isn’t a lot of money for clients, they regard it as money well spent.
“They could be spending a lot of money on a car or a holiday, and here they are meeting people who have been matched and checked out and it’s safe.”
‘It makes it less complicated if we are in similar financial situations’
“SUCCESSFUL international businessman, 49, healthy and comfortably off. Likes Edinburgh’s vibrant culture and country escapes. Enjoys good restaurants, the best seats in the house and high performance cars. Seeks loving partner to share the trappings of success.”
It could be the dating agency style profile for one of Berkeley International’s Edinburgh clients. Certainly if the man concerned were to throw his profile into the ring, there’d surely be no shortage of replies. Unfortunately, however, on the occasion that he did just that, his “perfect match” turned out to be slightly too close for comfort.
“I once picked through the offerings on an online dating site and was horrified to see myself matched with one of my employees,” says the city businessman, who wants to remain anonymous.
“I immediately changed my Google search to ‘introduction agency’!”
Now a client with ‘millionaires-only’ agency Berkeley International – which has just branched into Edinburgh for the first time – he says he’s happy to splash out to ensure Ms Right is, at least, unlikely to be one of his own staff.
Describing himself as in a “fortunate financial position”, he adds: “I want to meet ‘my partner’, but work is not an environment where I can mix personal relationships. It’s a no-brainer. I pay a membership fee like other clubs I belong to, where Berkeley ensures I am being introduced to genuine, potential partners.”
The businessman, who has interests in London and China, says many new people he encounters tend to be in work-related situations while his social life is with close friends where he’s unlikely to meet anyone new. “I would doubt that I am going to meet the type of girl I am looking for in a bar, a club or a restaurant,” he adds. “When I am in these places my attention is on my friends who I am with.”
He adds that the introduction agency helps ensure his dates aren’t after just one thing – his wallet. “I think I am an astute businessman, with a good, healthy lifestyle and this does attract women with less desirable intentions. I have a good friend who is coming painfully – both emotionally and financially – out of the other side of one of those relationships.
“I am a man and I admit to being a sucker for a pretty face. I am aware that there can be a different understanding to attraction and I have previously been led into a relationship where the goals, shall we say, were not the same.
“I am enjoying meeting astute, bright, businesswomen, with healthy lifestyles who are equally cautious about meeting gentlemen in a similar situation. It just makes it all less complicated if we are both in the realms of a similar financial situation. Berkeley’s selection process manages that risk for both parties.”
Find romance with someone who pushes your buttons..
THE days when boy met girl at the local dance and romance blossomed are long gone.
For meeting your match these days is all about pressing the right buttons on the laptop.
Internet dating sites and introduction agencies have boomed in recent years, each offering lonely hearts a chance to meet their perfect partner without actually having to leave the comfort of their living room.
While Berkeley International says it offers an exclusive service with agents selecting individual matches by hand, some dating agencies work on a massive scale, feeding clients’ details into computers and letting microchips do the work.
Others have evolved into sometimes bizarre niche agencies, catering for the specific needs and tastes of its members – from some dedicated to matching single parents with other single parents, to ones which have only people who wear uniforms to work on their member lists.
Among the largest dating agencies in the UK is Edinburgh-based Cupid.com, which runs a string of national and international agencies.
It was set up by father-of-four Bill Dobbie, pictured above, in 2005, and expanded into a worldwide web of internet dating sites that stretch from the New Town headquarters and into 58 countries.
Looking for love is clearly lucrative: the Edinburgh business reported profits of £9.2 million in March and it notched up 19.2m active users last year.