- Business Insider met Mairead Molloy, global director of matchmaking agency Berkeley International, to get a sneak peek inside the jet-set world of elite dating.
- Berkeley’s pricing starts from £15,000 ($US21,000) and goes up to £60,000 ($US85,000) for private headhunting, with a year of unlimited introductions.
- For highly tailored packages – with some very specific requests – they can charge up to £100,000, she says.
- One of her clients even entertains his dinner dates on his own private plane.
There’s something intriguing about the elite dating industry, a world in which the rich and famous spare no expense in their mission to find love.
To get a sneak peek into the jet-set world of matchmaking, Business Insider met Mairead Molloy, an Irish-born former hotelier and qualified criminal psychologist who is the global director of matchmaking and elite introductions agency Berkeley International.
When we met in central London, Molloy had a sun-kissed glow even though it was March – when she’s not flying around the world playing cupid, she’s based in the south of France.
Berkeley’s clients are wealthy professionals – she counts millionaires, billionaires, and even celebrities on her books – who are looking for love but don’t have time to find it themselves.
Her job, she explained, involves physically jumping on a plane to find the perfect matches for her clients in some cases.
Berkeley’s pricing starts from £15,000 and goes up to £60,000 for private headhunting, with a year of unlimited introductions. But Molloy said she can charge up to £100,000 for highly tailored packages – with some very specific requests.
“It all depends on how discrete you want us to be, how much travelling you want me to do, how much of my team you need. The more tailored you want it – the more we charge. A lot of people need to be hand held and we’ll look after them from start to finish.”
But Molloy added that she’s straight up with her clients about what she offers.
“If you think you can buy love and happiness then we can’t help you,” she said. “If you have the wrong mindset and you’re dividing your fee into each member you meet, then you’re going to have a nervous breakdown.”
The Pride and Prejudice approach
Molloy has been matchmaking for Berkeley International for 15 years. It’s headquartered in London’s prestigious Berkeley Square in Mayfair, but now operates in 13 locations across Europe – from Copenhagen to Cannes – as well as New York and even Melbourne.
Business, Molloy said, is booming thanks to a combination of digital dating fatigue and global uncertainty – a trend she calls the “lipstick effect.”
“When times are tough people spend more on themselves and the same applies to dating and introductions,” she said.
Many of her clients are tired of “anonymous” dating apps, and are after a personal touch, she says, and her team will often be on call before, during, and after a date.
“People can come in and talk to us over a glass of wine or we go to their houses,” she said. “The trend for the human touch is back.
“It’s all a bit Pride and Prejudice and people love it.”
Many of Berkeley’s well-heeled clients travel frequently for work, and are just as willing to travel to find love.
“There is no shortage of extravagance when it comes to our clients, they will go to any lengths to find love,” Molloy said. “50% of our total membership travel to meet people – it is what it is.”
She added that the company’s “Nylon” – New York to London – service is where the company sees the most success.
“We work a lot with private jet charters to fly people back and forth,” she said.
One of her clients even entertains his dates over dinner on his own private jet. “They will land in Paris and then fly back to London – it’s dinner in the sky! You don’t ever get off the plane, it just touches down to land and then they fly back.”
Molloy said that these days her clients are less concerned about age because “we’re dying later so age is less of a thing.” And don’t assume her clients are all middle-aged CEOs – her youngest client is currently 19, and her father is footing the bill.
“Now a 30-year-old [woman] is happy to go out with a 50-year-old man. Woman are having kids much later so they’re easier to match, too, and we get lots of women coming to us in their 40s who have already had their eggs frozen.”
While people are happy to travel and less hung up on age, Molloy added that her clients are much more fussy with their wish lists than they once were.
“Expectation has increased because of the society we live in, everything is on demand, everyone wants a quicker and better service,” she said, adding that millennials are her “most intolerant clients.”
“When you pay money for something you have an expectation of that service, so we have a lot of pressure on our shoulders to match the person to the expectation of the other person [and] to match the fee that they have paid.”
So what does £100,000 get you?
Sense of humour is one of the most sought-after qualities that Molloy’s clients are looking for in a match. Being interested in art, a love of theatre, horse riding, walks in the park, and travelling are all also pretty standard requests.
Celebrities use her services, too. She said that “well known” people will say: “I want to meet that guy that was in that TV show, can you track him down?'” And off she and her team will go.
One of her highly tailored packages, which costs close to £100,000, is for one of her younger female clients – and it’s being paid for by her parents.
“They want to find a husband for her who has to be of Indian-American heritage, who’s from a very specific university – in this case it’s Harvard – and has to live in San Francisco,” she said.
Once Molloy’s team has tracked down a match, it’s the parents who meet them first, but if they’re from the same culture, she explained, they’re usually quite happy to do this.
Molloy added that she finds it fascinating putting different cultures together and seeing how they mix and evolve. Winning combinations in her experience include American/Irish, English/German, English and/Nordic, but not English/French or English/Italian.
She recently matched a Texan farmer with an Irish woman who moved over to live with him three months ago. She added that it’s often “really random” matches that have the most success.
“It’s all very Charlotte and Harry from Sex and the City,” she laughed.