This is a story about a royal family office. Once upon a time in a far off kingdom, which came to be called Lichtenstein, lived a prince who was very good at acquiring property from the Holy Roman Empire. He and his successors, who still live in a fairytale-type castle, were so good at accumulating things that today the family’s wealth is among the greatest in the world. Not only that but the family office managing their vast fortune is among the most successful in the world.
The family office is called the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation, and, although it doesn’t call itself a family office, it shows all the hallmarks of being one, managing, as it does, just the assets of so-called Princely Family of Liechtenstein. These assets include large land holdings, agribusiness ventures, a huge art collection and a thriving wine growing and retail business. The family also have other assets outside of the Foundation including Liechtenstein's biggest financial group, LGT, which they own outright. Other parts of the extended family -- there are many members and it can get very complicated following all the lines -- own other businesses, including a Liechtenstein trust company called Industrie-Und Finanzkontor.
Back in 2011, the last time it was estimated, Forbes reckoned the current head of the Princely family Hans-Adam II along with his family had a fortune of around $5 billion. But like most of the royal families around the world it’s very difficult to estimate their wealth. That’s because royals have had years of mastermining ways of disguising it and downplaying its actual size. Whatever the true amount of their wealth, it’s probably safe to say it’s in the billions of dollars, making them Europe’s wealthiest royal family.
What’s amazing about the Liechtenstein royal family - and this distinguishes them from other royal families - is that they are involved directly in the management of their assets. Not only that, they, at least on paper, are more than qualified to be running highly sophisticated investment vehicles and banks. And this is to be admired - they haven’t just taken a backseat and allowed a lot of professional flunkies to manage their affairs.
The Foundation’s boss is Prince Constantin, the third son of Hans-Adams. Constantin didn’t just get the job because of his royal blood, although, no doubt that helped, but he also had some pretty good credentials to run the family office. Before working for the Foundation, Constantin had a robust professional background working as a banker in New York and private equity specialist in Germany.
His elder brother, Prince Maximilian, is CEO of the LGT Group, and, like his brother Constantin, is well qualified to lead a bank, having gained an MBA from Harvard, worked in private equity and as a banker for JP Morgan. That level of expertise and training in finance doesn’t really exist among the British royal family, nor among the royals in the Middle East.
Incidentally, Prince Max, would probably also get the unofficial title of the coolest member of Liechtenstein’s royal family. When he married Angela Gisela Brown in 2000, he became the first member of a ruling royal family to marry a person of known African origin.
It’s probably safe to say that when it comes to wealth management and preservation, no family has been in the business as long and as successful at it as the Princely Family of Liechtenstein. For the family, the fairytale continues. And for other family offices - perhaps a good model to study...