Here’s a brief catch-up for last week’s truants: Patric Douglas, 42, is CEO of Shark Diver, a shark-cage-diving enterprise that will hook you up with a 20-hour boat ride to Isla Guadalupe, one of the few places in the world where great white sharks congregate. You will be placed in a 100-square-foot cage and lowered into the water, thence to wait upon 1800-pound white sharks. Douglas will also see to your fun requirements if you’d like to try out tiger-shark cage-diving in the Bahamas or deep-water submarine trips out of Honduras. Perhaps giant squids are more your style? Need a hand with a movie or TV project?
And then there is one small corner of the empire, something not advertised, something that happens three or four times a year, to wit: providing custom shark cages, custom shark trips, and personal support for the rich, unbelievably rich, in-your-dreams rich, mostly on their yachts, and always at their convenience.
I ask, “How do you talk money with them?”
“Up front,” Douglas says. “We don’t jag ’em — too many people do. As soon as a big yacht pulls up, everybody has their hand out. We do a little research on the client. I look at what the job’s going to take. You always add, probably, 5 percent onto that, because they are notorious for changing their minds at the last possible second. That’s one complaint I have about people in big yachts: they have no perception, or very little, about how the rest of us live.
“A classic case... We got a gig for the Bahamas. [The client] wanted to do a one-day tiger-shark-diving trip. They didn’t have their own vessel. So, we sourced the yacht, we sourced all the food, upscale liquor — the whole nine yards. They were going to spend a full day [cage diving] and then come back [to the Bahamas] on the boat. We sourced a private jet to pick them up in Miami. My crew was waiting at the Freeport airport [Bahamas]. I got a call — 10:40, they’re not there. Eleven o’clock, they’re not there. One o’clock, they’re not there. My guys waited until three o’clock and then I got a phone call from the client. Not apologetic at all. He said, yeah, they were in Las Vegas partying and the girlfriend cut her hand and they didn’t wake up until two in the afternoon in Miami. ‘Sorry, can’t make it.’ Completely, completely unrepentant about the whole thing.
“They spent $150,000 on the yacht. They spent $25,000 on our services, and it all went for naught. So, my crew got on the yacht, cracked open the champagne,” Patric laughs, “and enjoyed themselves. That’s how it rolls.”
“You get the money up front?”
“You bet. Oh, God, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Always get the money up front,” Patric laughs. “It’s the dive industry.”
“Does anybody have a job?”
“There’re two types of yacht owners: self-made men or mafia — I mean, full court. And it’s Russian mafia. It’s ugly Russian money. I’ve seen yachts that look like Tijuana whorehouses.”
“Have you ever had a client who scared you?”
“Russians scare me. They have the ability to make people disappear and do so on a regular basis. A lot of these guys have been brought up the rough way. They don’t value human life at all. At all.”
“You must have liked some clients.”
“Most of them,” Patric says. “There are only one or two that I find disruptive. And it’s not so much them as their hangers-on. Each client has their own groupies. Depending on how seasoned they are, how long they’ve been around that kind of money and that kind of lifestyle, they can either be absolutely monstrous or cool ass.
“For the most part, I like the clients — I love their backstories. One of them, his father owned a meat-packing factory. He worked his way up, had some great ideas, expanding on his dad’s ideas, got a few breaks, sold at the peak, and made hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, his son...what a waste.
“We’re on the yacht and I say to him, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ Without missing a beat, the guy looked me right in the eyes — a 20-year-old kid — says, ‘I think I want to own a basketball team.’” Patric laughs, “‘I think I want to own a basketball team,’ and there’s a dead seriousness in his face that betrays the obvious. He’s got the money to buy a basketball team.”