Meet the matchmakers who help rich people fall in love

Imagine receiving a call one day from a woman you’ve never met before, who asks out-of-the-blue if you would be interested in flying to New York on a private jet to go on a first date with a billionaire.

It sounds like a fairy tale, but that’s exactly what Amber Kelleher-Andrews, the San Francisco-based matchmaker and co-founder of the matchmaking firm Kelleher International, did to set up a date for one of her billionaire clients. “He asked me to go do a global search using whatever resources I have,” Kelleher-Andrews said. After doing research online, she found a potential match; a woman who lived in Los Angeles who works as a chef on yachts. Because of her job, the woman had met plenty of billionaires before, and so Kelleher-Andrews knew she wouldn’t be overly impressed with his money. In fact, she says, it was a bit of a turn-off. “I had to talk her into going on the date.”

While many people might fantasize about falling in love with a billionaire (or even a lowly millionaire), it can actually be difficult for high-achieving, ultra-high-net-worth-individuals to find love. For one thing, many are suspicious of mates who are only interested in their money. But also, they do not have the time to go out and meet people on their own. Not to mention they’re constantly traveling for work or for pleasure.

So where do they turn? To a good old-fashioned matchmaker.

“I’m more of a concierge, enhancing their lives. Otherwise they’re never going to meet anybody, because they’re just always moving,” Kelleher-Andrews explains, “I have a celebrity right now that’s skiing in Utah. So it’s like great, let me capture these four days that you’re skiing, and see if I can introduce you to somebody while you’re there.”

Such services, obviously, don’t come cheap and Kelleher International starts at $25,000 for a local search and can go up to $250,000 for a global search. But there is no shortage of demand to be a client; in fact, she says they “have a waitlist that’s kind of crazy.” With the exception of the few Cinderellas like the yacht chef, all Kelleher International clients pay the fees, insuring that everyone is meeting matches who have comparable levels of wealth. “It’s not like the girl’s going to be totally blown away because they’ve never seen a guy with money before.”

While Kelleher International has — as its name suggests — a global reach, there are also elite matchmakers with more of a local focus, like Project Soulmate, which is run by Lori Zaslow and Jennifer Zucher. Out of a Midtown office, the two women have been matching wealthier New Yorkers for eight or nine years (like many points, they disagree about the exact year they started their business). They also starred for a time on Bravo’s show “The Love Brokers.”

Meeting with them feels a bit like meeting with your best friend’s meddling-but-well-intentioned older sisters and in their hands, New York City seems almost like a village just teeming with potential matches.

“Everybody loves the dream of New York City, but it’s really hard to date here,” Zucher says, noting that many wealthier people – especially as they get older – don’t have the energy for going out to clubs, bars or fundraisers to meet potential matches. “We always tell our clients, you hire us to be everywhere you can’t be.”

Like Kelleher-Andrews, Zucher and Zaslow have a roster of clients who pay them $25,000 and up — the older you are, the higher the price — but they also have a database filled with singles they meet from just talking to people encountered in everyday life. (Case in point: one of the first things they said to me when we met was “Are you single?”). If they think someone in their database is a match for their client, they will set up the date.

So what do multi-millionaires (or billionaires) do on a date? “Everything seems to be a little bit more exciting. Their lifestyle’s very grand and it’s very busy, and it’s very romantic,” Kelleher-Andrews says.

Her billionaire client who flew out the yacht chef for dinner, for instance, invited her to his penthouse apartment with views of the park; gave her the best champagne and fed her an incredible dinner as they talked about the priceless art on his walls. “[The chef] called me after and said ‘if he doesn’t want to see me anymore, I never want to date again. You’ve ruined me.’”

Zucher and Zaslow set up first dates that are a little more low-key; they recommend their clients go out for drinks at a bar that is quiet and good for conversation and is halfway between the two of them (so no one has home field advantage). A favorite place to send people is the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel. After the first date, they let the couple choose the next spot – though they are always happy to provide advice.

After the date, the matchmakers will stay involved to the extent that their clients want them to. Kelleher-Andrews once called all the men one of her female clients had gone out with to ask why they didn’t ask her on a second date. All of the men said they felt that the woman talked too much about her job. After Kelleher-Andrews shared this information, the woman had “an aha moment” quit her job, went to a retreat and met a guy on her own there. Kelleher-Andrews credits her success to the fact that she was finally made aware of what she was doing wrong.

“You can go on in life meeting people and never knowing what you’re doing. I like being helpful in that way.”

Sometimes, though, wealthier people can be less understanding when the service that they are paying huge sums of money for isn’t providing them with the results that they want. And matchmaking – with its strong emotional component – can result in some fairly ugly complications. “We deal with difficult people, yes,” Zucher says, “the people we work with want what they want.”

Still, for the most part, the matchmakers say they are good enough judges of character that they can usually weed out people who are going to be difficult at the beginning of the process and avoid working with them. Kelleher-Andrews even refunded the money of one client whom she realized was going to be “a nightmare” to work with because she was very bitter from her divorce.

Still, Kelleher-Andrews insists that at their core, wealthy people just want the same things that everyone else does. “There’s no difference in talking to somebody who has money and somebody who doesn’t. They still are looking for love, connection, respect and admiration.”

And when they find it? Defining success in matchmaking is obviously a dicey business since everyone has different goals – some people may want marriage, others might just want a second date. The matchmakers claim they don’t ask for marriage bonuses, they’re just happy when they’re clients find what they’re looking for.

But of course, a little something is always appreciated. “People say, ‘What can I give you guys if I find my wife?’” Zucher notes, “And I tell them, ‘We love Chanel.’”