Oct. 10, 2007 -- Wall Street is abuzz about an intriguing merger proposition: A "spectacularly beautiful" 25-year-old woman placed an ad on Craigslist seeking a husband who makes at least $500,000 a year.
The mystery woman -- under ad number 431649184 -- said "$250,000 won't get me into Central Park West," where one apartment recently sold for $42.4 million, the highest price ever paid for a condo in New York City.
It wasn't her audacious proposition that sent traders rolling with laughter in the pits but the witty response fired back by someone claiming to be an investment banker who said he fit the bill.
"It's a crappy business deal," he wrote.
"What you suggest is a simple trade: You bring your looks to the party, and I bring my money," he reasoned. "But in economic terms, you are a depreciating asset, and I am an earning asset. ... Your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity."
"You're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next five years but less so each year," he added. "Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!"
The e-mail exchange was forwarded around the financial district faster than insider information on a hot deal.
"Everyone on Wall Street got it," said a spokesman in the investment banking division of JPMorganChase, where the pithy response was first thought to originate.
The incident caused a massive headache for the public relations department at the financial giant, which warded off calls from reporters about the identity of the alleged author. It turns out the young employee at the New York investment bank had just forwarded the e-mail to his friends, without noticing his electronic signature, and it wound up on all the blogs.
"I feel terrible for the kid," said 30-year-old banker Kevin, who was downing a quick burrito at Chipotle around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday. "He got the e-mail just like the rest of us."
Ad Appears Legitimate
The original ad appears to be legitimate, according to Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist.
"I don't see any evidence that this ad was anything other than sincere," said Buckmaster, who said the ad was first posted Sept. 25. "Although you never know."
The witty exchange struck a chord in Kevin, whose eventual income might lure such a husband hunter.
"It was a perfect response," said Kevin. "It was a classic reaction to a gold digger."
His slightly older tablemate agreed but said gold diggers on Wall Street were nothing new.
"Back in the day, they'd go to the World Trade Center and hang out at Moran's," said David, 37. "They'd come in three or four at a time and buzz the whole crowd. All the traders had a certain look, and they'd start to introduce themselves."
Still, Kevin said he was "shocked and appalled" at the woman's brazen approach. "It's sickening that a person would only look for rich men. Find your own job and earn your own living!"
The husband hunter defended her direct approach.
"Please hold your insults -- I'm putting myself out there in an honest way," she wrote. "Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm being upfront about it. I wouldn't be searching for these kinds of guys if I wasn't able to match them -- in looks, culture, sophistication and keeping a nice home and hearth."
'I'd Rather Lease'
But her responder retorted: "So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold ... hence the rub ... marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to buy you (which is what you're asking), so I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades, I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage."
"Seeing such a naked gold digger out there is not surprising, but it's troubling," said Marco, an investment banker.
Marco and his officemates Michael and Tim, all in their 20s, were not eager to give their full names and corporate addresses after the JPMorganChase snafu. But they admitted they had received multiple copies of the forwarded e-mail from numerous friends.
"It sounded like a younger guy," said Marco, who recognized the gold digger from his undergraduate days.
"Everyone is broke in college, but there are certain guys with discretionary income who can pay for dinner instead of going dutch," he said.
"In college, some girls would only date guys of a certain social status," said Tim. "They won't come right out and say it."
But one woman in her mid-20s applauded the husband hunter's candor on Craigslist.com.
It's "not about the money, and it is not a matter of materialism," she wrote. "Rather, it provides an umbrella under which many other qualities seem to fall: premium educational background, high level of motivation, a family who raised the man well (and therefore good genes and similar breeding) and a socio-economic background that reflects your own."
The number of women seeking well-paid husbands so they can stay at home rather than climb the career ladder is on the rise, said Marty Nemko, a San Francisco career coach who has counseled an estimated 2,000 women in 20 years.
"Gold digger doesn't mean millionaire," said Nemko. "Their issue is to stay at home and lead and middle-class life and be taken care of."
Women Prefer Home
Nemko estimates that about two-thirds of the women he counsels want "a nice, comfy part-time job.
"These women increasingly tell me, 'I saw my mom, and I am grateful to the feminist movement to allow mom to be there in the power suit and shoulder pads and all that. And she's not so happy.'"
Nemko advises five ways to find Mr. Right, including telling all the friends you know that you're looking, online dating; general flirting, going to singles events speed dating, taking classes.
Choosing the venues and "extracurriculars," like taking up sailing, golfing or going on a cruise, can enhance the odds that Mr. Right will have money.
"But don't go on the Carnival line," he said. "Make an investment in the Celebrity."
Placing an ad on Craigslist is another way and not an immoral one, said Nemko.
"I would rather see stating the objective on its face rather than subterfuge," said Nemko. "It sounds like a fair deal if you make a fully consensual agreement."
Still, most men "recoil" from the prospect of being targeted by a gold digger even as men themselves are "not as honorable in the things they pursue," said James Bassil, editor in chief of Ask.Men.com, which draws about 10 million readers a month.
As coldhearted as it seems, the Craigslist plea reflects the "functional relationship" between many men and women, said Bassil, who wrote the book "From the Bar to the Bedroom."
"Women are attracted to ambition, and that translates into security with high earning power," said Bassil. "Men value looks and beauty and equate the relationship with how good-looking their women are."
Some who read the Craigslist exchange wonder if that forum was too lowbrow for a rich man and question the authenticity of the husband hunter's request.
On New York's site alone, Craigslist boasts more than 500 million page views and 2.5 million classified ads per month.
"This posting was made on rants and raves, not w4m [women for men]," said Susan MacTavish Best, a spokeswoman for Craigslist. "So, you know, to some extent, I'd guess the person was quasi thinking out loud and expecting feedback, not posting an outright ad. But who knows."
Attempts to reach the poster of the ad through a Craigslist e-mail went unanswered, so there's no way to tell how many responses were received.