When you are a member of the elite Ultra Rich you have enough money to buy almost anything. It’s fun to dream about what you might buy if you had a million dollars – but what if you had billions? Here are the top 10 most extravagant luxuries enjoyed by the richest people in the world:
10. Excessive Personal Entourages
It’s understandable that rich folks are generally busy doing what they do and so they hire assistants. But for the Ultra-Rich, the concept of help has reached ridiculous levels of hedonism. Take mega superstar Mariah Carey. You might not be a Mariah fan, but her work has allowed her to amass a fortune that has an estimated value of $500 million. With that wealth, Mariah has taken the concept of luxury to new heights. Ms. Carey employs a battalion size staff that literally caters to her ever whim (whim, not need mind you). The woman has an assistant whose sole job is to carry around sanitary hand wipes to give to Carey after she shakes hands with anyone. It is reported that she even has an assistant who has the responsibility of telling Mariah how beautiful she is every morning and several times throughout the day. Now that’s a Diva! Then of course there is the globetrotting and mega film starlet Angelina Jolie. With a personal fortune valued at $100 million, Ms. Jolie (and able companion Brad Pitt) employs a small legion of assistants to help her. This includes a gaggle of nannies (of different nationalities to match the nations of birth of her adopted kids), at least 4 nurses and a doctor, a couple of personal assistants cooks, maids, cleaners, bodyguards and the like. The Ultra-Rich value their time and hire other folks to take care of mundane tasks associated with living life, while they can pursue more important tasks.
9. Professional Sports Teams
A lot of us are sports fans- we love our basketball, football, baseball, etc. We go to the games and we sport the team apparel in support. And that’s about it. Only big boys (and girls) have enough paper (that’s money for those of you who aren’t hip) to purchase their very own professional sports team. What sports fan hasn’t wanted to be the ‘the man’ of their favorite franchise and be able to chart the winning course! For most of us, this is about as likely as hitting the lottery. But for a very select few, the dream is a reality: for a very steep price. You have to be insanely rich to afford a franchise in one of the three major American sports (football, basketball and baseball). Take the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League as an example. Dubbed ‘America’s Team’, a fan and businessman Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 for a hefty price (at the time) of $150 million. With personal net worth at about $1.8 billion (he made his money in oil) this was a pretty good deal for him because in this exceptional case the stadium was included. That move allowed him to maximize his profit potential once the team improved its play on the field and the fans started to return. Today, that $150 million investment is worth $1.8 billion, as the latest assessment values the Cowboys. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (worth about $13 billion) owns two professional teams. In 1988, he bought the National Basketball Association’s Portland Trailblazers for the cool sum of $70 million. Nine years later, he dropped another $200 million for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Today, these investments are worth $356 million and $994 million, respectively. Consequently, the price to attend a professional sports event has skyrocketed. Between player’s salaries and the insane cost of the franchise itself, owners are diligently working to recoup on their investments.
8. Media Outlets
If you want to make money and you’re a public figure or entertainer (i.e. talk show host, singer, etc.), then your horse is usually tied to whichever production company is willing to support you. Sure, if you’re successful, you will reap a benefit; but the vast majority of the funds you generate are going to go to the company you work for. The solution to this (as well as the ability to chart one’s own creative and visionary course) is to own your production company. Of course this is easier said than done – the large media conglomerates hold a monopoly on any type of real control in this arena. It takes real money and leverage to do otherwise. Enter craft master Martha Stewart. The former caterer has turned her culinary/ home crafts skills into a multi-billion dollar industry by taking control of her business ventures. By consolidating her various enterprises under the umbrella of her media company, Martha Living Ominimedia – Ms. Stewart has amassed a net worth of $600+ million. Martha owns her own magazines (Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings), produces and markets her television show (Martha StewartLiving), and markets/sells a whole slew of product lines. Then of course there is Oprah. With a staggering net worth of $2.4 billion, Oprah Winfrey is one of the most powerful and influential media personalities. Her Harpo Productions has long produced her award winning and highly rated, The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as other media projects. This cash cow (and other ventures such as her own magazine ‘O’), has allowed Ms. Winfrey to take another step in media dominance as she has purchased her own cable TV network. Christened OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network, natch), the cable channel (a 24/7 affair of Oprah inspired entertainment) allows Oprah to do what she wants, how she wants. And keep all the money if it works!
7. Ultra-Extravagant Weddings
Marriage is a special commitment and getting married is a special occasion. The average wedding in the US will set a normal couple back about $24,000. Personally, I thought that figure was a little on the high end – but I’m cheap. For the Ultra-Rich, $24,000 probably wouldn’t pay for the flowers. Take the wedding of Sheik Mohammad bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (whew!). This gentleman is the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and he was getting married (to a princess, in fact!). Well, when you’re a prince of a very oil rich nation, no expense is to be spared for something as special as marriage. His parents commissioned for a 20,000 seat stadium to be built for the occasion. The total cost for what turned into a week-long celebration (the prince visited and fed the residents of every town in the small country) was close to $100 million (when adjusted for inflation – this took place in 1981). Of course there was the very lavish wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Royalty do weddings like no other and this international event had a $32 million price tag. With spectacular carriages, an amazing ceremony in historic churches, custom designed wedding dresses, military regalia, and the entire world watching – the event was billed as the marriage of the century. Unfortunately, it didn’t last, but it was truly a fairy-tale wedding event.
6. Legacy Endowments
“With great power, comes great responsibility.” Granted, I believe that Stan Lee wrote these words for Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) back in the 1960s, but the sentiment applies to those of great wealth as well as superheroes. In most cases, perhaps surprisingly, the Ultra-Rich step up to the plate and invest a good deal of their financial resources to lasting causes. While some could argue that the point behind so-called legacy endowments is to maintain one’s name into perpetuity – the end result is still worthwhile. One of the first such endowments was the legacy gift left by business mogul Andrew Carnegie back in 1910. He endowed $10 million to a trust for the purpose to” hasten the abolition of international war.” Today, we see a good deal of work in the area of endowments being done by multi-billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet (through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). Based on the concept that “every life has equal value” the gates Foundation funds a slew of grants that seek to improve the living conditions and opportunities of people around the world. This particular endowment is valued at $37 billion and has handed out well over $24 billion in grants since its creation. Indeed, Mr. Buffet has stated that he intends to leave his entire fortune to the foundation upon his death. I don’t know how his heirs feel about this, but that’s certainly a charitable contribution considering his net worth is $50 billion. No doubt his legacy is one that will stand the test of time.
5. Election to Political Office
The Ultra-Rich get ultra-bored. When making money, which these folks are obviously very good at, becomes ho-hum; the Ultra-Rich turns their sights to other pursuits. For some, government service in public office becomes a worthwhile endeavor. To their credit, they aren’t doing it for the money – we all know that government service doesn’t pay what these guys can make in a day. Whatever the personal motivation, some of the Ultra-Rich have been very successful in the political arena. The current mayor of New York City is a shining example (check the video above – 5 minutes in). Michael Bloomberg is listed as the 8th richest person in America, with a portfolio that is valued in the $18 billion range. By far, he is the richest person holding public office. Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the terminator and former governor of California, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The box-office superstar has a net worth somewhere in the area of $800 million. Of course, there have been other less successful forays into public service by the Ultra-Rich. Perhaps the most well-known are the presidential runs of self-made billionaire Ross Perot. While Mr. Perot did manage to secure 20% of the popular vote when he ran in 1992; he failed to earn a single of the all-important Electoral College votes (though he spent a good deal of his own money in the attempt). There is also the example of Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder fortune (and a personally worth of about $3 billion). Mr. Lauder made a run for the mayor’s office in New York City in 1989, but lost the contest to Rudy Giuliani. What’s interesting however is where Mr. Lauder cut his teeth at government service – first at the Pentagon, then as the US ambassador to Austria. Not too shabby at all.
4. $100+ Million Homes
Perhaps the most visible and important symbol of wealth (Ultra or otherwise) is the home that one owns. You might not live there, but you better have a crib that’s worth some serious dough if you want to be in the Rich and Famous club. The Ultra-Rich, of course, take this concept to the next level. The Ultra-Rich have homes that could house a small country in terms of size. Aaron Spelling’s home in Los Angeles, for example, is 56,000 sq feet! With over 120 rooms, it sits on 4.6 acres of prime LA real estate. And with a $150 million price tag, it can be yours if this fits your lifestyle. Bill Gates’ lakeside home in Medina Washington is said to be a technological wonder befitting something out of Star Trek (or the tech whiz persona of the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire). Named Xanadu, the Gates family home measures out at an impressive 66,000 sq ft and is valued at about $147 million. While the Gate’s home has all of the normal trappings of a mansion – lots of rooms, libraries, etc; the features that garner the most attention are tech based. One in particular requires all guests to wear a special pen that allows the home to tailor certain features of the home to the wearer’s preference – such as room temperatures, music, etc. On the extreme end of this future home is the house of Mukest Ambani, the 9th richest man in the world and head of Reliance Industries in Mumbai. His future home, which he has christened “Antilla”, will cost an estimated $2 billion! And this is not just another run of the mill super mansion. No sir! Mr. Ambani is building himself a tower. Planned to reach upwards of 550 ft, the home is said to be based on the well-known Mumbai Tower. Every floor is to feature a different design, with no two being the same. With over 400,000 ft of planned interior space, we can expect that every luxurious feature will be available upon its completion.
3. Super Yachts
The Ultra-Rich only deal in the grand and this definitely includes the yachts that spark their interest or even get their attention. Super yachts, by definition (and I looked this up), is any yacht that measures 80 feet or longer. Well, the Ultra-Rich find the number meager. At least Roman Abramovich (the Russian billionaire business tycoon) does: he happens to own the largest yacht (at least currently) in the world. His super yacht, the Eclipse, measures out at 531.5 feet. This, of course, to go along with his 282 ft yacht, the Ecstasea; and the 377 ft yacht, the Pelorus. It’s best, apparently, to have a set of yachts. The second largest yacht in the world, the Dubai – coming in at 526 ft – is owned by one of the richest men in the world (some say richest), Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai. These super yachts are literally homes that float. Private gyms, luxurious bedrooms, helicopter pads, full staff, submarines, jet skis – you name it, these super yachts have it. And the price? Well, these babies fall in the $19 million plus range. But as they say, “you get what you pay for!”
2. Luxurious Submarines
Submarines. Really. Apparently yachts are no longer the sole nautical symbol of extreme wealth. It seems that the Ultra-Rich are now very interested in doing their best impressions of Captain Nemo and have taken to the depths of the world’s oceans and seas. But even Jacque Costeau would marvel at the technological wonder of these modern-day submersibles for play. And believe me, these are toys that only the rich can afford. Super venture capitalist Tom Perkins had to lay down a cool $1.5 million for his Super Falcon sub, just to give you a hint. Subs bring a whole new dimension to scuba diving – which is pretty much the extent of what these vehicles are used for (these vehicles are large enough for 1 to 4 people). For the most part, the folks who can afford these personal subs include them as an extra feature with their Super Yachts. Microsoft co-founder and multi-billionaire Paul Allen has two subs on his super yacht, the Octopus. Though one has to wonder when someone will buy an actual full size submarine and trick it out. Hmmm…
1. Personal Islands
The wealthy tend to value their privacy and nothing (really!) can be more private than your very own island. Picture a tropic getaway: beautiful weather, crystal clear water, sandy beaches… all nestled away on a small speck of land in the middle of the ocean. Surprisingly (at least to me), real estate of this nature is available for purchase – if you have that type of cash to afford it. Mega superstar Mel Gibson ponied up $15 million for his Mago Island (located in Fiji), while the Magic Man himself, Mr. David Copperfield (who pulls in a whopping $57 mil a year) owns not one, but a slew of small islands in the Bahamas. The prices for tropical properties surrounded by water vary – depending on location, development and access; purchasers will spend in the neighborhood of $3 to $25 million. But just think – unless some natives come along with the property (which would be kind of cool – that would make you a king or something wouldn’t it??) – having an island affords one with a level of privacy and peace that would be hard to capture anywhere else.
By Lee Standberry