What It’s Like to Have a Billionaire Brother

‘Are the rich really different from the rest of us?’ I ask myself while wrestling with my billionaire younger brother at 3 a.m.

Eric Spitznagel
Human Parts
Published in
10 min readOct 6, 2019


Photos courtesy of the author.

For most of the last decade, my brother Mark and his family lived in a house with a moat.

The house — a four-bedroom French villa in Bel Air previously owned by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony — is pretty impressive even without the moat, but that unnecessary protective trench gives the house a certain surreal charm. It’s nice to know that when you visit your family for the holidays, you don’t have to worry about Spanish conquistadors.

When I tell people about my brother’s moat house, they usually ask, “Is he rich or something?” When I admit that he is, their next question is, “So you guys probably don’t get along anymore, right?”

It’s a weird thing to assume, especially the “anymore” part. It’s as if the moment my brother’s bank account added a few extra zeros (okay, a lot of extra zeros), he morphed into Monty Burns from The Simpsons.

I can’t blame them. For most of my life, everything I believed about very rich people I learned from F. Scott Fitzgerald. “They are different from you and me,” he wrote in the 1925 short story “The Rich Boy.”

Despite not knowing any rich people personally, that seemed about right to me.

My family, on both my mother’s and father’s sides, has historically been middle class, usually on the lower end. We buy our cars used, find our clothes at outlet malls, and aren’t afraid of eating meat “priced for quick sale.”

I grew up with birthday parties at Burger King and the knowledge at eight that I’d be paying off college loans till I was 40. How could I disagree with Fitzgerald that rich people, with their lack of any discernible struggling, really did believe “deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are?”

The wealthy aren’t helping their own case. Tom Perkins complained to the Wall Street Journal about the “rising tide of hatred” against the super-rich, comparing his supposed oppression to the Kristallnacht.

If you consumed enough media as a child and ever…



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Eric Spitznagel
Human Parts

I’m a writer and editor, and the author of a dozen or so books, including "Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past."