On a cold December day in 2007, Chris Reynolds Gordon went to his attic to get a rope and a box. Before his properties investments crashed, he had been one of the most successful 22-year-olds in the world. He drove an AC Cobra, owned an apartment in the South Kensington area of London, hopped first-class flights to Las Vegas at a moment’s notice, and had spent New Year’s traveling with a girlfriend from Paris to Istanbul on the Orient Express. But after a sudden loss of more than £3.2 million and the untimely death of his mother, he had gone from everything to nothing. “I was devastated,” he says. “My bank account read £3,000.”
As his stepfather worked in a home office on the ground floor, Chris wrote a note, left it on his bed, fled out the back door of their house in Chigwell, England, and headed to a forest behind a nearby high school. He found a tree and tied the rope around a high, sturdy branch. The day was windy, and he wasn’t wearing a jacket. He worked the other end of the rope into a noose and slid it around his neck. “I felt that I always wanted to have a significant meaning in life,” he says. “I would rather show people how not to live your life and end it than continue as a failure.” He stood atop the box and grasped the noose. He estimates he stood like that for 40 minutes. Finally, he pushed the rope off his neck and stepped off the box.
When he got back inside, he tore off a piece of paper and found a black ballpoint pen. On it, he wrote, “£360 million, aged 31.” Seven years later, Chris still has the piece of paper in his wallet. The figure he scrawled was a thousand times the amount of money his mother had bequeathed him in 2006. He had used that money to bet against the foreign exchange market and a variety of companies on the FTSE 100 (the share index of the top 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange), just before the recession, and he made an “astronomical sum.” But then he went big again, sinking his winnings into construction projects in Morocco, Dubai, and Egypt that went bust. On the day he wore the noose around his neck, the money was almost gone: from £3.2 million to £3,000 in mere days.
“I knew I needed to get it all back. I just didn’t know how.”
I meet Chris, now 29 years old, at a friend’s house in south London. He is deciding between a leather kilt and a pair of assless chaps for the evening’s Halloween sex fetish party. His friends have a laugh when he holds up the chaps, but he shakes his head and goes with the kilt instead.
Upstairs, he changes out of his standard blue crewneck and jeans into the kilt. He takes off his shirt and slips into a black velvet blazer. His hair is short, with a touch of gel. I help him tie up two silver armbands with blunted spikes to complete the costume.
“Thanks, mate,” he says.
He pulls out his gold-plated iPhone 4. The background screen is a picture of his 24-year-old girlfriend, a lingerie model named Lauren Bea, seated on a bed next to a female friend. Both are wearing lingerie and blindfolds, heads tilted upward. Chris opens WhatsApp and sends a text. “I’m looking forward to tonight,” he says. “It’s actually nice I won’t to have to fuck a ton of people.”
The plan is for him and Lauren to join seven friends at the Coronet Theatre, a club in central London, for a Halloween party called Torture Garden. He expects he’ll have sex with a few women but nowhere near the number he would expect to sleep with at one of his own sex parties, where a ratio of three “superhot” women to every two men gives him “pretty good odds,” he says. Chris’ sex party business is what has skyrocketed him to success. He has been hailed by Vice as “Britain’s answer to Dan Bilzerian,” and England’s Channel 4 is making a documentary on his wild life.
Lauren walks downstairs confidently. Her costume is a Le Petit Secret black thong and black string brassiere that goes around, rather than over, her breasts. She has blonde hair with light brown highlights and a tattoo of three butterflies on her lower right abdomen. Chris adjusts his velvet blazer and looks her up and down. “I love your makeup,” he says. The two of them have been dating for seven months, in an open relationship. “It wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works for us,” he says.
From afar, Chris Reynolds Gordon might seem like the playboy type. He’s handsome, his net assets exceed hundreds of millions of pounds, he just purchased a seven-bedroom villa in Ibiza, he’s an athlete (he was a junior champion 800-meter runner), he has sex with women of his choosing essentially whenever he wants, and he is a savvy businessman.
But he isn’t a traditional playboy. He couldn’t care less for perfectly sized lapels, ski trips, or other old-money hallmarks. He says he plans to buy a house in Monaco within the next two years, but he laughs when I ask if he will keep a yacht or sailboat in the Monte Carlo harbor. “I just have a lot of friends there,” he says, “and it’s good for business.”
He also has an unorthodox cleverness. After his mother died, he knew he wanted to be financially independent so that he wouldn’t have to rely on his stepfather, with whom he has a tenuous relationship. (Throughout our conversations, he referred to his relationship with his stepfather as “frosty” but sometimes called him “my father.”)
“I started at Traders University,” he says. “Just something I had seen in my e-mail. It was really shit—taking your money and promising you the world.” Then, in 2006, he met Paul Wallace, an independent trader and a performance coach, at a house party in Shoreditch. Wallace introduced Chris to a former Goldman Sachs trader, who took him under his wing for “thousands of pounds an hour.” (Chris requested that the trader not be named.) “You’re trading at the perfect time,” he recalls the trader telling him. “The world is in crisis. You can do a lot by going short.”
Over the next year, Chris and his mentor spoke over Skype as often as every other day, looking for quick changes in the marketplace that they could exploit using technical analysis chart patterns. Many of the financial tools that Chris used, he innovated himself, he says. He recalls making £80,000 in a single day while sitting at his laptop. “I was on cloud nine.”
His decision to work under the tutelage of a successful trader rather than spend time in school (he dropped out of Swansea University after one term) suggests a street-smart practicality lacking in the typical young person raised amid the trappings of wealth.
“I could have just gone for the normal path—a lot in my year went to either Oxford or Cambridge,” he says. “It went school, university, banking job…but I get up whenever the fuck I want; I go to bed whenever the fuck I want; I travel whenever the fuck I want; I can do whatever the fuck I want.”
While his go-for-broke attitude is partly what allowed him to make a quick fortune, it also led him to invest in those ill-advised construction projects—which brings us back to those 40 minutes in the woods.
Sometime after that cold December day, Chris had a new idea: diamonds. He decided to pursue a job at Alrosa, a Russian state-owned diamond trading and mining company, but the industry proved difficult to crack. “No one took me seriously,” he says. “Everyone knows everyone, and I’m just a new kid who has no fucking clue.”
He flew to Moscow, where Alrosa is headquartered, and stayed in the President Hotel. He says he met with State Secretary Pavel Borodin, all the while pretending, at age 23, to be one of the richest men in the world, not to mention a knowledgeable diamond trader. Chris left Moscow thinking he had the job, but perhaps his bluff wasn’t entirely credible: A week later he learned he wouldn’t be hired. “I had no idea why,” he says.
There followed a stint as a part-time model (“shorts and calendars, mainly”) and an attempt to get back into running shape, with the idea of trying out for the British Olympic team, which didn’t pan out. “When I decided to stop running, I cried a lot, but I knew that dream was never going to happen,” he says. “My parents loved me running. When it was going well, they came to everything.”
He got back into trading but without the success he had known selling short in the volatile days leading up to the recession. Low on cash, down on his luck, he moved into a youth hostel in the outskirts of Swansea, where he slept free of charge on a changing-room floor. He was 25. He took a job packing boxes.
Four years later, when he was worth hundreds of millions, his girlfriend, Lauren, happened upon the sleeping bag he had been using in the hostel. “It smelled like shit,” Chris says, “but, obviously, I kept it to remind myself of how hard it was.”
He has a tendency to memorialize the difficult parts of his life. In addition to the sleeping bag, he has held onto a small piece of gold chain (“My prize possession,” he says). It was once part of a necklace given to him by his grandmother, with whom he lived between the ages of four and six, after his parents divorced. “She’s the only person who, apart from Lauren, has loved me unconditionally,” he says. “She was always there, always had an open door for me, even when I was homeless and had nothing.” At one of his low points, he sold the necklace to a pawnshop, asking the pawnbroker to cut off the small piece that he has kept ever since. “I didn’t have the guts to ask someone for help,” he recalls, “and so I sold the gold chain and I cried my eyes out.”
After spending four months in the hostel, Chris met a woman who asked him if he would like to become an escort in Putney, where she was living. “I had no money, so I said yeah, and we made a few hundred quid in the first week, and for me that was like seriously good.” They pretended to be a couple so that whoever hired her would get the added pleasure of feeling as though he were persuading her to cuckold her boyfriend. In his second week on the job, he says, he met another female escort, at a mansion in Kensington Gardens. “As we leave, she slips her number into my hand and says, ‘You want to be working with me,’” Chris says. “This girl was off the scale. I went from living on a changing-room floor to a house on Gloucester Road within weeks, because I was earning thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds—just having sex with hot girls, in different hotels.“
At 26, he was partying almost every day. “I was like going off to Mahiki (a London nightclub near the Ritz Hotel) and spending crazy money, and I was really, really wild. I was really fucked up at the time.” He came to believe he was a sex addict. “I was depressed. It wasn’t very fulfilling, and I didn’t save any of the money…. I was really upset with my relationship with my father [stepfather] at the time, and I wasn’t happy with myself.” The hype that surrounded the 2012 London Olympics reminded him how far he was from the champion runner he used to be. “And then I hit my birthday,” he says. “I was like, What the fuck am I doing with my life? That was it. I didn’t want to be here anymore.” On the day he turned 28, he tried to kill himself again, this time by letting the car engine run while he sat in a closed garage. He was staying with friends in Harrow, and it was only the chance of having a friend come home from work just then that saved him. “I was really lucky. I probably would have followed through with it that time.”
After returning from the psychiatric ward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital (which confirmed Chris’s stay there), he recalls thinking, How am I going to do well from here? I’m good at trading and I’m good at sex parties.
The solution was simple: “Let’s have a sex party business.”
Called Heaven Circle, the thriving business that resulted from his eureka moment is a consortium of smaller brands Chris has created within the last year. There is Heaven SX (three girls to two guys); Heaven XS (“excess guys”); Heaven XX (“all girls”); and the discontinued Heaven XY (“all guys—but we dropped that one,” he says). The parties take place in mansions or apartments in New York, London, Paris, and Ibiza (“I don’t think I’ve ever used a place that’s less than three million quid,” he says).
The typical evening begins like a cocktail party. People chat and flirt. Around midnight, the women withdraw from the main rooms and change into lingerie. On their return, the lights are dimmed. Clothes come off. “If someone’s new, we can all encourage her,” Lauren says.
Chris recalls evenings where he has had sex with more than a dozen women. He also remembers evenings where he has been content to just watch. “I can be sitting, watching a bunch of girls going at each other, and I’m just chatting with my mates, no problem,” he says. His newly launched Heaven Circle Social Network makes it easy for those under age 35 to sign up for parties. Chris, Lauren, and a small “selection committee” trawl through the applications, choosing the most attractive applicants. Chris estimates that 5 percent make the cut.
He also runs less-exclusive parties, such as the Masquerade Ball and the Fetish Frenzy, but even these are testing grounds, with certain guests invited to the more exclusive evenings. The most difficult to get into is the Heaven Soiree, which is free for invitees, with flights, hotel, and food all paid for.
“From [the creation of Heaven Circle] my life completely changed, because I met the people who have given me millions and millions of pounds for these companies,” he says. Much of the networking happens at the parties themselves. “You get to know people very, very well, and your trust is extremely high,” Chris says. “If you’re sleeping with someone’s wife, the trust in the way you get to know each other is, like, a different league.”
His three biggest companies, all of which, he says, he is looking to take public within the next year, are I.I. Systems, a 360-degree camera that just went through a round of venture capital funding; a yet-to-be-named bleach product that is biodegradable, pH-neutral, and “doesn’t fuck up your surfaces,” he says; and Free Pay Master, a mobile payment system. “Free Pay Master came about because PayPal were dickheads to my party,” he says, adding that his PayPal account was shut down because their acceptable-use policy prohibits “certain sexually oriented materials and services.” Free Pay Master is, in Chris’ words, “for all kinds of adult payments. I don’t give a fuck.”
As for the public reception to what he does for a living, Chris says, “There’s all these people that insult me and say things about what I do, but I’m putting people together who want to have fun. I’m not harming anyone. I’m giving them what they want, and I’m liberating women so that they can actually have fun.”
In the back corner booth of a restaurant on Gloucester Road, Chris and Lauren tell me the story of how they met, at a Heaven Circle party. Although it was her first time at such a party, she says she wasn’t exactly nervous. She leans forward to clarify: “Like, I’ve done lots of threesomes.“
At the party, Lauren recalls seeing two butlers. “They were really fit,” she says. “Really, really fit.” Although they weren’t supposed to leave the floor, they went with Lauren when she invited them upstairs to have sex. “Because they had had so much coke,” Lauren explains, “they couldn’t…you know.” Then Chris walked in. “And he, well…” She laughs.
“To be honest, she was a really good fuck,” Chris says.
Lauren touches his arm. “Aw, how romantic!” She rolls her eyes and laughs.
Chris called her a week later to invite her to a hotel in Scotland for a weekend. “On the five-hour [car] journey up, I thought, She’s actually really, really nice, and then, on the five-hour journey back, she was really nice, so I thought, Okay, I could probably see her again. And then she was really nice again, and then I couldn’t get rid of her.”
He says this in a deadpan way and cracks a smile. On cue, Lauren laughs.
At the Torture Garden party, there are half-naked men and women singing sea chanteys, exotic animals, burlesque shows, and, in a banquet room, naked models acting as human tables as they lie on the floor with food covering their bodies. Chris and his friends stay until 6 a.m. After that he goes home and sleeps three hours before meeting me for brunch at a different restaurant on Gloucester Road. He is ravenous. He orders eggs, bacon, sausage, and extra toast. The eyeliner he wore as part of his costume is smudged. I ask him if he believes his life has been fated or if his successes and failures have all been pure chance.
“I’ve always been able to hustle my way through life. I’ve always been able to make a buck here and there to survive, and, you know what, like, it’s really hard because—I think my mum would be really, really proud of me, if she were around. I think my life would be really different if she were around.”
He takes a bite and says, “She had incorrigible convictions, and she would always defend me. That’s key to me. I think fucking up is another talent of mine, and I wish I had a mum to go speak to about it.”
He often talks about the “huge issues” he has with his family. When he was 17 and his parents found out he was skipping classes at Woodford Green Preparatory School, in Essex, where he was enrolled, they changed the locks on the house.
“I lost [touch with] my mum, my dad, my coach, my little brother, and it took me like 10 years to recover from that. It was that bad.” And now: “To my remaining family, it’s completely—it’s like I don’t even exist anymore.”
He touches the piece of piece gold chain that he wears on a lanyard around his neck and says he regrets that he doesn’t have more time to see his grandmother. “I don’t even have enough time to ring my nan, let alone my friends, and it’s hard when taking calls from a reporter or a business associate is more important than talking to friends—and I hate myself for that.”
He shows me a photo of the crumpled note on which he wrote “£360 million” years ago. As long as his businesses do well on an initial public offering, he expects he’ll far exceed the £360 million by the time he turns 31. He says his number-one goal for his future, though, is “consistency.” “I have rules in place now,” he says, “rules I didn’t have when I was 21.” I ask him if money has fundamentally changed who he is.
“I don’t think money changes you. I think it simply exacerbates who you already are. If you’re a little bit insecure,” he says, “the first thing that you’re going to do is you’re gonna go out and buy a flash car, a flash house, flash designer gear, and you’re gonna go this, this, this, to show I have made it with all these different things.”
He says he needs to make a few calls before the trip to his seven-bedroom villa in Ibiza. He’s throwing a Heaven Circle party in London in two weeks that he needs to finalize, and he has to get in contact with business associates in Malta, where his companies are headquartered for tax reasons.
The waiter clears our table, but before I go, I ask Chris what he thinks his mother would say if she were around. “I don’t think she’d be over the moon about my lifestyle,” he says wearily.
Outside, it’s a standard winter day in London: cold and brisk. I look through the window and see that Chris isn’t making any calls or sending any texts. He just sits a while, the noise of the restaurant enveloping him as he stares at the wall. The past is a dangerous place, and, as much as he holds onto bits and pieces in the form of sleeping bags, pendants, and crumpled notes, these are all memories of hard times.
At last he picks up his iPhone. He takes an extra second to stare at the picture of the scrawled note: “£360, aged 31.” But he doesn’t have time to waste, so he dials and gets a jump on business before venturing out into the chilly Sunday afternoon.