Fall 2016

Robert Frank’s beat is the super rich

Robert Frank’s beat is the super rich
Robert Frank films a segment about a Florida billionaire whose $14 million Gulfstream jet was designed to match his cars.

Most of us — sadly — will never feel the insane rush of racing a $1.5 million Lamborghini-style powerboat against the exotic sports car that inspired its design. Robert Frank ’90 was lucky enough to take the steering wheel of this high-powered watercraft, and he routinely brings us into the rarefied world of the 1 percent.

Frank is a wealth reporter for CNBC, host of the network’s Secret Lives of the Super Rich, columnist for The New York Times and a best-selling author. His current gigs are an extension of the work he did at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a foreign correspondent from 1996 to 2001. After returning to the United States, he still had the bug for covering different cultures.

“At the time, the number of millionaires had nearly doubled within a 10-year period and had grown to the size and wealth of a small country,” Frank says. “When viewing it as a foreign culture, wealth became very interesting to me.”

At the Journal, Frank launched a wealth beat, which was the first of its kind in the newspaper industry. He never imagined that in 2016 he’d still be covering the super wealthy, figuring that after five years he’d run out of stories or get bored.

“I love hearing stories about how people made their wealth,” Frank says. “That never stops being interesting to me. I’m fascinated by the ways in which the wealthy assign value to a $157 million Picasso or an $800,000 watch.”

Touring Celine Dion’s lavish estate in Jupiter Island, Fla., is one of his most memorable experiences. Because she can’t take her kids to a water park without causing a major stir, they got a water park of their very own.

“A lot of people like my reporting because I don’t pass judgment,” he says. “I don’t make fun of the wealthy, nor do I celebrate their wealth. I enjoy having access to places that almost nobody gets to see.”

Frank says he’s quite happy being a visitor in the “foreign country” populated by the super rich.

“The world I cover is not my world,” he says. “The best thing about going to these different worlds is coming home to my wife and daughters. You don’t have to be rich to have a rich life.”