We are very proud to welcome to our editorial staff a singular witness of our time.
H.R.H. Prince Michel de Yougoslavie, Grandson of King Umberto of Italy and Prince Paul of Yugoslavia
He is our Shareholder and Advisory Board Member, but also investment executive, socialite, philanthropist and photographer in his spare time.
Each month, he will touch on the latest trends and happenings within the global luxury and investment worlds, gleaned from his exclusive meetings with the powers that be.
Until then, here is our introduction of Prince Michel.
Helene Clabecq: You are starting your own section on our website on the topic of luxury. What is luxury to you?
Prince Michel: People think “luxury” means “anything expensive”. For me, it means quality. You may not always see it. But you can taste it, touch it, feel it. Anyone can, to an extent, easily tell the difference between a regular or top of the shelf olive oil, a wine, a fabric, right…? Once you interact with luxury in that way, it changes your life.
Most likely, senses, perceptions, opinions are tweaked by the way one is brought up.
For instance, one’s relationship to money. It’s funny because I was raised by my grandparents, Kings and Queens, and we never really talked about money, because we did not “need” it. Once I entered the business world, that was on everyone’s lips. I had to adapt.
I had friends who “hated” luxury, because they did not know what it was. It was something forbidden to them.
In conclusion, one’s definition of luxury has everything to do with education. We all have our own reality, we run our own program… It can be changed. It can be an unconscious obstacle, or it can be a bridge.
HC: Will luxury help move the world forward?
PM: There is no reason why not. During my last trip, I attended a family office conference. Half of the participants were working for family offices, the other half had products to sell, all types of companies, cryptocurrencies, insurances, some focused on saving the world. As long as investments flow in that direction. The world needs safeguards and investors need to ensure where they place their money, and who they are associating with.
HC: You started experimenting with photography, what is the message behind your art, and in particular, your last exhibition?
PM: My whole idea was to showcase separation between countries, with the symbolic blocks becoming bridges, and walls being broken. Hence why the exhibition took place at a trade photography festival show in South Korea, in the DMZ (N.B. demilitarized zone at the border between North and South Korea).
I showcased the Fortress of Belgrade, Kalemegdan, which was under Turkish occupation for 600 years and used mirror and transparency effects on the printed photo.
In another shot, I created a gold dome of protection around the city of Monaco and the ocean, and featured Monaco’s coat of arms, the first metalanguage, as a reflection around territories.
His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco visit His Royal Highness Prince Michel of Yugoslavia during his exhibition in Monaco, summer of 2021
HC: You have lived several lives in one. Royalty. Wall Street. Artist. Who are you really?
PM: I was born versatile. I grew up in Paris in the traditional French society; I went to a business school. The focus number one was studies, and we valued social and intellectual quotients above all. Then I moved to the USA where, far from Europe, I got exposed to the business world, first in real estate, then finance in Wall Street. Competition. Hectic lifestyle. Action-oriented. Fast-paced. Pressure. Valuing money above all this time, like I explained earlier.
The bottom line is that situations change all the time, we are not static. Knowing that, the question is : “where can I benefit as I navigate those situations?”.
In the second part of my life, I decided to incorporate a new hobby when I moved back to Europe, first as a therapy: photography. I use a small, discreet full frame camera. I feel attraction towards what I am looking at, I want to capture it. I see it, I like it, get it. In my first show in 2012, when other photographers sold one piece, I sold 30. So I went on. The process starts as a way of expressing the self, and when people come to shows, comment on photos, want to buy them, because that pure creation comes alive on a photo and it makes them feel something too. This is another facet of mine, and a tool for expression.
Photography for me is also a great excuse to follow a call to adventures. I recently was in the bushes of Botswana, precisely in the Okavango Delta, the only delta that disappears onto the land. Not knowing if there were crocodiles or hippos. Hearing lions roar and being prepared to take refuge in thermite mountains if bulls or elephants were to charge me. All my senses were in action, at every second. I was fully present. That’s high luxury to me, actually.
HC: What did you learn from working in finance?
PM: My time in Wall Street ended in a tragedy as our Chairman committed suicide in the office in 2008.
What I learned is that one is better safe than sorry. When it comes to placing funds… Always trust, but verify. When investing your image, your money… It is yours, it is a serious thing, so place everything on your side. There is no more “Mister nice guy”. Every detail of the contract must be professional, square and honest.
When you deal with someone else’s money, is it even more important, as then your reputation is on the line.
After Wall Street, I went on to work with “James Bond” so to speak, in a company founded by a former MI5 (NB UK’s security services) where we did business intelligence investigation and espionage to find out where banks client’s money was coming from and if they were the actual owners, before validating investments. I uncovered all sorts of things. Like I said. Trust but verify.
Second lesson: money is energy. You need money to make more money or have fun with it. The point is not being a slave to it, but mastering it.
HC: Which direction would you like to guide Wall Street Luxury Europe toward, as a shareholder and Board Member?
PM: I would like to start conversations about lifestyle and life in a metaphysical way.
Many people who can afford expensive toys have a very fulfilling business career, they made it, they rank among the richest people, but are missing a dimension: what to do now? What is next? How to reach longevity, immortality?
I got inspired by Alain Forget’s book, How to get out of this world alive. And those are my questions.
Interview by Hélène Clabecq