Meet Lucas Bitencourt, the 26-year-old catering to the world’s 0.1 per cent
"Hi Alistair, it’s Lucas Bitencourt. I’ve just stepped off the plane from St Tropez – out there for a couple of weeks for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Gala, been pretty busy.”
Such is the life of the managing director of Essence, a Belgravia-based family firm that manages the lifestyles and affairs of 36 billionaires and their families. (NB They are only ever billionaires).
Most likely, you’ve never heard of Essence. Loosely conceived by Lucas’s father in Rio de Janeiro, the brand morphed into a concierge company when it was asked to service the US Olympic Team during London 2012. From there, Essence grew organically, taking on the heads of fashion houses and other high-profile clients, largely through word of mouth.
I first interview Bitencourt at 5 Hertford Street, a tucked-away private member's club in Mayfair, during which a disgruntled Robin Birley walks past casting disparaging looks at my dictaphone. Our second meeting takes place on a sofa in an upper antechamber of Mark’s Club, just off Berkeley Square.
Bitencourt is smart, suave, self-assured, not easily identifiable as belonging to one particular nationality (he is in fact Brazilian). When he speaks, you get the impression Bitencourt would be as comfortable around cleaning staff as with world leaders. “I have huge power because of my community, as most of my clients are worth £1bn plus, from a cross section of fashion, retail, mining, real estate and various other industries.”
From keeping Cipriani (now C London) open late so Muhammad Ali and his family could have dinner during London 2012 (“It opened after hours, the staff had to stay, but that was organised on the spot”) to chartering a private jet in order to buy a handbag (“that’s something we do on a regular basis”), Bitencourt has the world – and willing helpers – at his fingertips.
“There are clients who share intimate details with you, like they are divorcing their wives, or things are not going so well in the bedroom,” says Bitencourt. “You have to react with care, preempting what they might think, because these individuals are people who are used to having things yesterday. You have to talk to them, and eventually they often answer their own questions. And then they go off tangentially and ask for a private jet to somewhere.”
One member called at lunch and asked for a made-to-measure Savile Row suit by evening. Explaining that made-to-measure Savile Row suits aren’t something that happen in just a few hours – much to the client’s frustration – Lucas eventually mollified him by directing him to Tom Ford.
“I don’t think that we’ve ever had a request so outrageous that it’s impossible to fulfil. We’ve had some very demanding and imaginative situations, but there’s always a solution. It’s all about your network of contacts and having an understanding of who to call, when to call them and which incentives to offer.
“One member wanted a landing slot in Munich for his jet in order to see the Champions League final. Now this was a pretty special person, a real captain of industry. All the landing slots were reserved for officials and executive FIFA officials, but we were able to get him a slot.”
One of Bitencourt’s most recent requests was for a huge sum of Bitcoin, the crypto currency currently trading at around BTC1: GBP3,500. The difficulty was that without trading over the course of several months or years, an influx of Bitcoin is notoriously hard to come by. To make matters worse, the traditional banking sector is, understandably, less receptive of its new digital competitor: “The various banks or brokers we have contacts with wouldn’t touch it, but then we happen to have a friend of a member who actually had a fund of Bitcoin, so we were able to trade and purchase through him.”
During both of our meetings, Bitencourt leaves the room to take various phone calls. It’s clear that he never switches off. “I like to be busy and have things to do, and I think that hunger drives our success. If you’re not willing to put in the work, you stagnate. There might be moments where I’m in the gym and I have to answer the phone, then, yes, it’s an inconvenience, but I understand that it’s all for the greater good. If I have to add to my output at midnight, at the weekend, on a bank holiday, it’s just the way it is.”
So the schedule can be daunting. How about the clientele? “At one event in the south of France, I looked around and everyone in the room was twice my age. Everyone was either a Victoria’s Secret model, an actor or a billionaire. It felt really gratifying to be in a room with all these magnates, tycoons and people of such great influence.”
Surely, at some point though, Bitencourt has experienced a jolt of panic when he’s realised he’s not going to be able to deliver for a client. He sips his cappuccino, defiantly. “At my level, you never do.”