The Matchmaker For Millionaires

Finding the perfect spouse is no different from choosing the ideal house, according to the Irish woman running an exclusive dating agency matching millionaires worldwide.Mairéad Molloy has headed up global introduction service Berkeley International for nine years.They offer discreet, exclusive match-making for the rich, famous or anyone willing to pay the price to find the ideal partner. And with an 8,000 pound annual subscription fee, Berkeley clients can expect a particularly high service and an even higher quality of suitor when their matches are made.For Mairéad – who prefers the term 'head-hunter' to 'matchmaker' – that's all in a day's work for the agency which boasts offices in London, New York, Manchester and Scotland, and has plans to open in Dublin. This week the modern-day cupid – a Co. Wexford native living in France for 15 years – said of the growing trend of 'buying a husband': "When I came on board this was an agency for little old ladies in pearls and cashmere twinsets."Berkeley's Global Director added: "Now we've turned that around. We've been voted the world's best agency by GQ magazine and have become the one to use amongst the elite, the rich and famous."Of course anybody can join, but the price does exclude some and attracts the right type of people to put together." For clients who are largely professional, time-poor and cashrich, Mairead and the Berkeley team offer a unique tailored service where they 'hold their hands' from start to finish."These people have often put their careers first for years and now need to find a partner, so we speed up the process for them," Mairéad explained. "They range in age from 18-83. Some are divorcees, widows or widowers stepping back onto the market. Some are in their 20s, looking for the right kind of person to start a life with – maybe a doctor or a surgeon."Basically these are people who don't want to go and take their chances finding a man or woman in a bar anymore, they want to pay to get their perfect partner. "It's like looking for a house – you would use an estate agent to find you an apartment, you use someone like me when looking for a husband or a wife" Headquartered in London, Mairéad's exclusive agency has clients worldwide, but 25 per cent of its membership is made up of Irish singletons.With that in mind the businesswoman– also a psychologist– hopes to open a Berkeley branch in Dublin."I think the Irish may seem a little inhibited when it comes to paying money for a husband, but there is most definitely a market for us in Ireland," she said. "A quarter of our clients are based there and the amount of enquiries I get from Ireland is superseding the amount of time I can put into it. So while I can manage the Irish clients, it would be lovely to localise the service for them.She added: "I actually think the increase in interest there might be to do with the recession. People are fed up with being single and with the state things are in and start thinking 'I'd rather be with somebody and upset about things than be alone worrying about it'." Mairéad is keen to hear from anyone who might be willing to invest in setting up Berkeley's Dublin branch, claiming if the clients are happy the business will look after itself."We have a 75 per cent success rate," she said. "Our clients spend on average seven months on the books, enjoying roughly seven introductions, before finding their match. From a business perspective it's a perfect model." With a number of Berkeley marriages already under her belt, Mairéad is confident of many more matches to come as the business expands. But don't expect to see her in a hat on the big day."We have a good success rate, but we would not take anyone on if we didn't think we could help them," she said. "We are selling hope here; we have to have a conscience about it."So it's always great to hear of a wedding but I don't accept the invites. That would be a little strange. You don't invite the estate agent over after you've bought the house, do you?"By Fiona Audley