AP Private | February 2023

2022 is a year to be forgotten by the faint of heart who decided to invest without the support of a good financial advisor. However, the wind will soon change in favor of those who managed to keep their nerve.

Plus, the volatility of the markets tends to make the prices of safe-haven assets skyrocket.

For Private and HNW clients, safe-haven assets often correspond to pleasure assets: luxury real estate, vintage cars, watches, artworks, and objects that make everyday life more pleasant.

Leading auction houses – the well-known Christie’s and Sotheby’s, but also leading Italian auction houses such as Pandolfini and Finarte, which has recently acquired Czerny’s International Auction House – are no strangers to this tendency: 2022 has been a record year, with several lots sold at prices that greatly exceeded the starting bid.

The difference between a pleasure asset and an investment asset is the former’s immediate availability and tangibility: an apparent contradiction in terms, considering that pleasure assets are often defined – by people working in finance – as illiquid assets.

Actually, pleasure assets are becoming increasingly liquid: in fact, the market of pleasure assets is widening its range both geographically, following wealth streams, and in terms of price monitoring and development.

When it comes to the art world, Artprice is the world leader of price databases, covering over 30 million indexes and thus rivaling the stock market.

A recent episode, which took place in our financial capital city, Milan, is quite emblematic of the trend of pleasure assets.

Monsieur Bernard Arnault, the most affluent man in the world with assets worth over 185 billion euros, has become founder and owner of Lvmh after acquiring, in 2013, Milan’s historical pastry shop Cova. He has now laid eyes on another jewel of the city: Casa degli Atellani, offered in 1490 by Ludovico il Moro to the nobleman Signor Giacometto di Lucia dell’Atella.

After several transfers of ownership throughout the centuries, the house is now owned by the Conti family, which had it restored by the architect Piero Portaluppi in 1922. Among the current owners are also the children and the widow of the unforgettable Vincenzo Maranghi, Cuccia’s right-hand man in Mediobanca.

Can it be a mere coincidence that pleasure assets and art are almost often found at the same crossroad?

At the moment, the acquisition of the house has not been finalized yet. Rumor has it that the house had been on for sale for years at a considerably lower price than the sum offered by the French tycoon (reportedly 150 million euros).

Apparently, some within the Milan bourgeoisie are outraged at the thought that the Milanese jewel could fall in French hands instead of being acquired by an Italian bank or an Italian magnate.

Regardless of what will be of Casa degli Atellani, this affair is emblematic of the fact that pleasure assets have been acquiring a key role, to some extent antagonistic to financial assets.

And this does not concern only French multimillionaires, but also Italian Private and HNW clients.

So, would it be better to invest on financial markets only or to diversify by investing on “illiquid asset” following one’s heart and taste? Monsieur Arnault gave a clear answer.

Nicola Ronchetti