GR US

Letter from Athens: Not in My Villa's Backyard: Corfu Project Has Rich Overtones

Αssociated Press

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, July 17, 2020. (John Thys, Pool Photo via AP)

There's nothing funnier than watching rich guys try to duke it out, using the Marquess of Queensbury rules, of course, (“No mentioning money or who has the bigger villa on Nantucket”) and the gloves-on gentlemanly manner demonstrated at the Harvard-Yale football game where instead of “Kill 'em!” the cries are, “Disregard the obsequious little lickspittle with the ball.”

Sigh. Try as they might, they can't be guys like Frasier pretended to be when consoling Bulldog who was dumped by a girl, advising him to find another to misuse.

“You're gonna have your fun with her and then you're gonna dump her just for the hell of it! And you know what? You're not gonna feel bad about it at all. You know why? Because we're GUYS and THAT'S WHAT GUYS DO!” he said.

That was soooo 1996 and we're in a different era now where that can't be condoned or tolerated, even on a comedy show, but we can get some chuckles watching how the other half – make that the other 1 percent – live.

It was comic relief during the fearsome time of COVID-19 to see rich British financier-manufacturer Nathaniel Rothschild technically break the rules about not speaking ill of other rich when he said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – a scion as the upper crust call those dynasty families – was “foolish” to support the 120-million euro ($148.87 million) Erimitis luxury development on Corfu.

“Environmentally Erimitis is a total disaster, it takes Corfu back to 1970's style mass development and adds zero to the local economy,” Rothschild tweeted, for which he was lucky to escape being barred from the Alumni Room of the Bullingdon Club, a private all-male dining club for Oxford University, students known for occasional bad behavior, like vandalizing student rooms.

Mitsotakis is no bad boy like Rothschild, who British papers said was known to like to toss back a few drinks, undoubtedly champagne magnums, but the Greek leader's pedigree is just as impeccable – Athens College, Harvard, Stanford, Harvard Business School – but he had the good graces not to call out the Bullingdon Billionaire.

What this is about for Rothschild isn't the environment but not wanting to have mere millionaires at a 5-star luxury resort only 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) from his villa on Corfu because it's just not done.

He is a descendant (scion as they say) of the Rothschild family that in the 19th Century had the biggest fortune in the world, so a villa on Corfu is a step down perhaps from owning your own country or the whole island, even if you had the misfortune to inherit only a 500-million British Pound ($651.39 million) fortune.

This dust-up would be funnier if Mitsotakis came out swinging but he's too genteel for that – he wouldn't do what guys do – so he sicced his pit bull, Investment and Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis on the Swissmeister.

The luxury resort catering to the rich was launched in July and Georgiadis said that, “it's a good thing that there is dialogue. The idea that the investment is for mass tourism, with 90 rooms and villas and the lowest construction in all of Corfu, i.e. 7% is completely wrong,” he tweeted.

Not only are the rich different from you and me, but they think differently too. Some years ago while covering the Massachusetts Legislature, there was a very rich Yankee Republican trying to fit in with the working-class Democrats, some of whom talked how much they liked jogging for a workout.

A couple of days later he joined the conversation on the floor and told them, to rather bemused looks given his less-then-athletic bearing, that he had taken up the sport and run five miles that morning, in his rich enclave community.

“Where did you go, into town and back?” he was asked.

“No, just around the yard,” he said.

Try to imagine their version of West Side Story – Manhattan Story since they own it –and we should thank them for letting us live in their country. It wouldn't be the Sharks vs. the Jets but the Scions vs. the Potentates.

Rothschild is trying to pass this off like he cares about the environment when what he cares about is having enough trees around his villa to obscure the view of the mere rich who will be coming to Erimitis in Mercedes' instead of Land Rovers.

“The regional infrastructure is not in place to cater for mass tourism in northeast Corfu and Erimitis is too far from the island’s small airport. Even the main arterial road to the north is single track in places. The developers have promised that the hotel will remain open all year around. No credible hotel operator will agree to this” he explained.

Bzzzt! Hit the buzzer. Too Late Nate.

The New York-based investment fund NCH Capital, which had acquired the 49-hectare site (121.08-acre) site in 2016, plans to build a 90-room five-star hotel, luxury residences and a marina on the forested beach front so look for a traffic jam of Bugatti's and Bentley's. He might have to upgrade to a Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita.

Too late for Nate again because he maybe could have bought out NCH Capital to stop the project. But why stop there? Buy Corfu! Then invite Mitsotakis for some champagne.