In 2007, what became known as “The Great Recession” began. As the unemployment and foreclosure rates skyrocketed countless people lost their jobs and homes. All across America people were suffering.
By 2011 the country was still trying to recover. But twenty-five-year-old Julie-Ann Crown never felt the pinch. Her father was the CEO of a major financial firm and thanks to the Wall Street bailouts, his company managed to weather the storm. Wrapped in a bubble of limousines, private jets, penthouses, and Monopoly money, Julie-Ann was isolated from the hardships the rest of the country had to endure.
But after a personal incident, Julie-Ann takes stock of her young life and decides to travel across America to see how the other half lives. The people she meets along her journey will forever change the way she sees the world. She will learn the true meanings of both adversity and resilience and that the backbone of the United States does not reside on Wall Street or in Washington D.C., but rather across the vast heartland of America.
Julie-Ann Dyanna Crown is young, beautiful, rich, and smart. She leads the life that most people only dream of and that many people would sell their souls for. Just twenty-five-years-old, she has the looks of a model, standing a slender, statuesque five-foot-ten with long, straight platinum blonde hair, glowing hazel eyes, and a flawless face. She has sex appeal and class. Whether wearing jeans and a t-shirt or a Valentino dress with Manolo pumps, Julie-Ann never left the house without looking her best.
Julie-Ann’s father, James Crown, has a net worth of over four hundred million dollars. He is the CEO of Diamond & Russell, a global Fortune-500 investment firm, whose headquarters are in Midtown Manhattan. At forty-six, he was the youngest man ever to be appointed to the position in the firm’s illustrious eighty-five-year history. Now CEO for six years, he and the company survived the market crash and mortgage crisis of 2007-2008 and are once again starting to thrive.
Julie-Ann’s biological mother died in a car accident when she was only six-years-old. Two years later her father remarried. Julie-Ann had always gotten along with her stepmother, Theresa. Having no children of her own, she never treated Julie-Ann like a stepchild. In fact, only twelve years her senior, Theresa treated her like a best friend. The two would go shopping together, and even went on vacations without James as he was usually too busy to leave work for more than a couple of days.
Julie-Ann was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and was spoiled throughout her life, but she was more than just beauty and wealth. Julie-Ann had always been a brilliant student. After graduating high school, she was accepted into Brown University, where she completed her Bachelors degree in finance.
Julie-Ann graduated college in 2009 when financial jobs were extremely hard to come by due to the Great Recession. Being the CEO of Diamond & Russell, her father was easily able to get her a position at JP Morgan Chase. But even with her bloodline and degree, no one was going to let someone without any real-world experience walk in the door and start trading. So Julie-Ann started as an assistant trader. However, because of who she was, she was put on the desk with the top equity traders and everyone treated her with kid gloves. Wall Street traders are usually ruthless towards assistants, especially newbies. Whether you are male or female, profanity, tongue-lashing, and degradation are commonplace on the trading floor. But no one wanted to piss off a Wall Street CEO, even if he was a competitor. Wall Street is still a small circle. Of course, there were the male traders that were hoping to get into her pants. Julie-Ann was stunning. Also, being the son-in-law of James Crown had a nice ring to it.
Julie-Ann never really took a shine to her job and after several months she was ready to quit. She was discovering that it just wasn’t her niche. It was still mostly a boys’ club, besides, she just didn’t feel the excitement or enthusiasm. The whole stimulation of trading was to make money, and she already had plenty of money. Julie-Ann worked hard in college, but she always found time to party with her friends. Now, she usually arrived at work before 6:00 a.m. and didn’t leave until 6:00 p.m., sometimes even later. Julie-Ann knew she couldn’t start off on the top, but still, she did not see the grueling work being worth the reward. She was not adverse to work, she just wanted to find a job—or a cause—she could be passionate about.
Julie-Ann discussed her feelings with her father. James Crown had always spoiled his daughter, but he always wanted her to know what it meant to put in a hard day’s work and earn a living. He wanted her to be successful in her own right. Julie-Ann explained that she didn’t have a problem with working hard but maybe Wall Street was just not for her. Mr. Crown had always told his daughter that she could do whatever she wanted to do; be whatever she wanted to be, and he told her that again. He also drilled home the point that it wasn’t wise to just throw her four-year degree in finance out the window. He urged her to give it a little more time. If she still felt the same way after five or six months, then maybe she could look at other options. Somewhat reluctantly, Julie-Ann agreed.
Unbeknownst to his daughter, James had dinner with the head of Julie-Ann’s department and asked if there was any way to get her more involved. Julie-Ann’s boss said he would see what he could do. Both men knew that meant yes. Favors are a way of life on Wall Street, and Julie-Ann’s boss knew that his would be repaid upon request. In that regard—and others—Wall Street is, and always has been very similar to La Cosa Nostra.
Julie-Ann’s boss moved her from being an assistant trader to his personal protégé. Julie-Ann was not stupid; she knew her father had to have been behind it. But she honestly didn’t see anything wrong with it. After all, despite her own accomplishments, having someone pull some strings for her was how she was raised.
Julie-Ann’s boss taught her the ropes and had her work on various projects. He also had her sit in on meetings, both internal and with clients. It was during one of these client meetings that she met Kenneth Fister. Ken used to be a portfolio manager at JP Morgan, but now headed his own hedge funds. In fact, at twenty-nine-years-old, Ken was one of the hottest, young stars on Wall Street. His upstart hedge fund company, Fister Capital, was outperforming some of the heavyweights in the industry.
Ken looked like he was made for Wall Street. Standing 6’2”, he was slender with a sculptured face and chiseled chin. His teeth were gleaming white, and it seemed that he practiced his wide smile. His short, thick, black hair was always perfectly glued in place. Ken dressed impeccably, wearing Brioni suits, three hundred dollar silk ties, and gold cufflinks with his initials on them. Ken didn’t just look the part, he played it. When he wasn’t driving around in his black, GranTurismo Maserati, he walked around like he owned the world. Always speaking with a loud, outgoing voice, he smiled and was gentlemanly to the “powerful people” and sneered at or gave no time, to everyone else.
At first, Julie-Ann was only exposed to Ken’s charming side. The first time she met him she was immediately sucked in by his good looks, as were most women. He had a commanding presence but was polite and always smiling. After the meeting, her boss explained how brilliant Ken was and how the sky seemed to be the limit for him. Of course, this only added to Julie-Ann’s infatuation.
Ken also took keen notice of Julie-Ann, as most men did when they first met her. It was only afterwards, when he called Julie-Ann’s boss about a business matter and inquired about her did he learn that she was James Crown’s daughter. For someone who was all about connections and status, this peaked his curiosity. From that point on, like mounting a trophy on his wall, he made it his personal mission to get her into bed.
Julie-Ann wanted to see Ken again to get to know him better. She couldn’t ask her boss; she just had to hope that he would take her along to another meeting. She did not have to wait long. A few days later, her boss needed Ken to sign some original documents. Ken suggested that his assistant just bring them over. Of course, he meant Julie-Ann.
After talking to Julie-Ann for awhile and buttering her up, Ken said that there were a few “very minor details” that had to be worked out for the deal and that the two of them could discuss it over lunch the next day. Julie-Ann said that she would have to run it by her boss, but Ken assured her that it would not be a problem. Her boss knew what Ken was up to, but truth be told, he just wanted to make Ken happy. His hedge funds were a very important relationship.
Within a few weeks, Julie-Ann and Ken were dating. It was the worst kept secret at both their firms. That kind of thing happens all the time on Wall Street. However, her father did not find out about the relationship until nearly a month later, when Julie-Ann told him. Although James Crown had never personally met Ken, he knew of him. He knew Ken had to be arrogant, but he also understood that he was bright, ambitious, and only moving up in the world. As long as Julie-Ann said Ken was treating her right, he approved of the relationship.
It was only a matter of time before Julie-Ann introduced Ken to her father. Ken pulled out all his charm, and the two seemed to hit it off. Of course, one being a titan of Wall Street and the other, a rapidly rising star, it did not take long until they started talking business and eventually had some dealings together.
Only seven months after they had started seeing each other, Ken proposed to Julie-Ann during a trip to Maui. She accepted. Her father gave them his blessing. Ken had his own money and was a go-getter. His stock was only rising. He also seemed to take loving care of Julie-Ann, and she was clearly in love with him. However, Mr. Crown was disappointed when his daughter explained that she was planning on quitting her job to become a fulltime housewife and to have a baby right away. He had nothing against being a grandfather, but he didn’t want Julie-Ann to quit her job. He always told her to be her own woman, to never have to depend on a man. James reiterated his feelings to Julie-Ann, but her mind was made up. Eventually, Mr. Crown got over it. Besides, in reality, Julie-Ann would never have to depend on anyone financially.
The wedding was set for that August, of 2011. It was to be an elaborate event, with the reception at Cipriani. They had already sent invitations to over 250 guests. Julie-Ann’s father insisted on paying for the wedding.
Though Julie-Ann often spent the night at Ken’s apartment overlooking Central Park, she still lived with her father and Theresa, at their four-bedroom Midtown penthouse (Mr. Crown also had a house in the Hamptons). She and Ken had started looking at houses together and hoped to move into one by the time of their wedding. Ken wanted to be close to Manhattan because of his work, so they were searching in Scarsdale, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in New York.