Eva Rausing’s death: How inherited money enables addictions

The media is buzzing with news of the recent death of Eva Kemeny, the daughter of a Pepsi executive, whose body was found in her London mansion on July 9. Eva who met and later married Hans Kristian Rausing, heir of Tetra Pak, a multi-billion dollar global food packaging empire. (How Rausing died is not yet known, or, at least, not publicly. But it is, inevitably, related to—if not caused by—her addictions.

The link between addictions and inherited wealth is the subject of Terry Hunt’s account of his life and work in  Labors of Love: The Legacy of Inherited Wealth, Book 2, published by The Inheritance Project. Hunt is himself a third-generation member of an American family that created a large industry. Haunted by some of the sources of suffering that go hand-in-hand with inherited money—particularly shame in Terry’s case—he eventually  became a professional therapist whose primary interest was helping people overcome addictions.

“There’s a way in which the shame that comes from narcissistic entitlement gets entangled with addictions, and heirs are especially vulnerable when it comes to getting caught in this tangle. . . . One piece of the pattern of addiction is connected with what I call ‘I will because I can.’ The ‘I can’ part comes from having a lot of money. The way in which their belief gets connected with addictions goes like this: ‘I will do what I want—get drunk, or take cocaine, or overeat—because no one can tell me what to do.’ So wealthy alcoholics, for example, think they don’t need to put constraints on themselves, and they never have to hit bottom because they have the bucks to back themselves up. They don’t get to the point of realizing that their lives are out of control. Constraint provides structure, and for most people, the necessity of earning money is a constraint. But the wealthy often end up following their impulses deeper and deeper into addiction.”

Curiously, Eva and Hans met at a US drug treatment center. The New York Times reports: “They were lavishly generous patrons of drug treatment charities who turned out to be drug addicts themselves, a glitteringly wealthy couple whose secret lives were exposed four years ago when the police caught them with thousands of dollars’ worth of crack cocaine and heroin.”

Eva Rausing’s death tragically confirms Hunt’s analysis of the causal relationship between large amounts of inherited money and major addictions. According to the Times, four years ago Mrs. Rausing confessed: “I have made a serious mistake, which I very much regret. . . I consider myself to have taken a wrong turn in the course of my life. I am ashamed of my actions. I hope in due course to get back on track to become the person I truly want to be.”