Magazines:'Spears wealth management survey'

William Cash, confidant of Elizabeth Hurley and a never less than colourful feature of the journalistic landscape, has a new venture on the go - a magazine that's aimed exclusively at the super-rich. Ed Caesar talked to him
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The Independent Online

The man behind this bold new venture is the appropriately monikered William Cash, a scion of the Cash name-tags fortune, and lately foreign correspondent and society writer for The Times and the London Evening Standard. It is with much bowing and kissing of signet rings that I have been invited to the Notting Hill flat which he shares with his heiress wife, Ileana Bulgari, to watch Cash hold forth to The Independent's dictaphone.

"There is a community of ultra-high net worth individuals," begins Cash, without prompting. "And there isn't any other title that targets them. What we've discovered is that a lot of people who have been very successful are very good at making money, but not so good at managing it. So what we've done is create a publication that addresses the need of these ultra-high net worth individuals."

So SWMS runs features on high-finance matters such as private banking, hedge funds and family offices. But it also runs straight-faced lifestyle features that include such diverse, moneyed fare as the pros and cons of private jets, how to hire a private investigator, and "the perks of being an heir". There are, apparently, downsides to inheriting millions.

"The one thing the world does not need is another luxury lifestyle title," he says. "This is absolutely not a luxury product and it is not a lifestyle product. Luxury has become ubiquitous, démodé, meaningless. Our readers are discerning. They don't want luxury gush. We'd never show the inside of a private jet. But we might tell you where to buy a jet with only one previous user."

The trick with SWMS has been to persuade high-end advertisers that the magazine is reaching an exclusive audience. To do this, Cash invested time and, one suspects, serious money, creating a profile of the 25,000 richest people in Britain. They will all receive a copy of SWMS (going cheap at £195 a year, for four quarterly editions), and they have the choice of opting out. Very few have so far.

"At a certain tier of wealth," explains Cash, "at around £8m - those subscribers will be called 'founder subscribers'. They will receive a complimentary subscription for a year. At the level below - people who are of high, but not ultra-high net worth - they will be given a trial subscription, and will be encouraged to subscribe, but they will not be given it free for the whole year."

Advertisers are encouraged by Cash's access to this unique consumer group. And sales of advertising packages have been strong.

"I think we've got a real chance to be a market leader," says Cash. "Traditional media are struggling because people are realising that you can be much more effective, in terms of media strategy, if you target directly the people you are trying to reach. Our advertisers - and they might be people who can bullet-proof your BMW or a high-end art dealership - do not want to advertise in the FT or The Economist because they are too mass market. We are offering advertisers the chance to talk to a community that has never been targeted in this way before."

This is not entirely accurate, for one person who has targeted this community before, albeit in a more roundabout fashion, is Cash himself. From 2003 to late last year, he published Annabel's Magazine, the editorial offshoot of the exclusive London nightclub. He recently lost this title, though, as Annabel's decided to split its output into two separate titles - Annabel's Diamond and Fashion Magazine, which is now run by Ben Goldsmith, and Annabel's Wine and Cellar Magazine. Cash has hung on to Wine and Cellar, and has also acquired Aspinalls Magazine, Historic Grand Prix Cars Association Magazine (it's "the new polo" apparently), and Sudeley Castle 2006 Magazine. Cash's master plan - to bring together a stable of titles exclusively for the loaded and super-loaded - seems to be coming together.

It's all a long way from Cash's journalistic origins. The Cambridge man, now 38, got his break, covering Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in 1989, as the foreign editor of the university paper, Varsity. He picked up a stringer's job for the now defunct Sunday Correspondent while in Berlin, and having graduated from university, found himself writing news and comment for The Times.

But Cash is perhaps best known for his friendship with Elizabeth Hurley, a relationship he cultivated during his time as The Times's Los Angeles correspondent. And, when Hurley and Hugh Grant's relationship publicly disintegrated in the wake of the Divine Brown prostitution scandal, Cash was offered untold riches to tell the inside story of Hurley's love life.

"I've got lots of friends who are celebrities, and I have been offered money at various times to talk about them," says Cash. "When Hugh Grant was caught with Divine Brown, the Daily Mail called me up and said 'name your price'. They offered me £100,000. I was also offered £100,000 by Hello! magazine to write a page about Elizabeth when she was breaking up with Hugh Grant. I said no way. There is no way I would jeopardise any kind of friendship like that."

Does that make him a good or a bad journalist?

"Listen, people are more than happy for you to write a piece about them if you ask them," he replies, as if the question itself is in bad taste. "So, someone like Tamara Mellon I've written about a number of times. That's always with permission and consent. As long as they are fully informed and know what's going on, they are pretty relaxed about it."

His stellar friends have also worked out, presumably, that Cash is bound to write something flattering. The boy who grew up rich is not in the business of shopping his rich friends to the papers. "In [SWMS], we don't write stuff about people. We don't publish rich lists. It's more about the serious side of enjoying one's wealth."

It remains to be seen whether the financial elite will feel that an extra £195 a year is money well spent.