It would appear that the more money you earn, the bigger and more expensive your toys get – and whether for fun, for science or for actual business, these billionaires have made some pretty bold – and random – purchases.
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk is no stranger to pushing the boundaries between science and science fiction with his futuristic Hyperloop transport concept – so the South Africa-born real-life “Tony Stark” can be forgiven a few eccentricities when it comes to blowing his wealth on peculiar items.
It was recently revealed that Musk was the man behind the purchase of what is, essentially, an elaborate movie prop – a classic Lotus Esprit which transforms into a submarine, driven by James Bond in the 007 movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.
Much to Musk’s dismay however, in the real world, the car is unable to actually transform – but according to CNN, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO aims to put the Lotus through its amphibious paces by putting in an engine of his own.
With a purchase price well under US$1 million, however, the Tesla CEO’s side-buy seems paltry compared to what some of the world’s wealthiest blow their spare cash on.
Mark Shuttleworth – a trip to space
Space makes its appearance more than once in this article – but South African billionaire (in Rand terms), Mark Shuttleworth definitely springs to mind when following expensive whims.
After selling his internet security company, Thawte, to VeriSign for US$575 million in 1999, the tech entrepreneur came into a lot of cash – some of which he was more than happy to part with to take a trip into space.
Shuttleworth spent approximately US$20 million for his trip into the big black sky.
Of course, the figure was recently placed into sober perspective, when it was revealed that it had cost Shuttleworth US$30 million to get his assets out of South Africa, due to the country’s exchange control levies.
Jeff Bezos – The Washington Post
The running joke on the Internet is that Jeff Bezos’ wife asked him to pick up the Washington Post on the way home one night in August, and the Amazon CEO took her a little bit too literally.
In August, Bezos – the billionaire CEO and founder of online retail giant, Amazon.com – revealed that he would be buying the Washington Post newspaper for $250 million of his own hard-earned cash – a deal sealed earlier in October.
The move caught many by surprise, as the purcahse was not a business-decision on the part of Amazon, but rather in Bezos’ personal capacity – and the unlikely new owner of the paper is said to be looking to breathe new life into the loss-making publication.
According to reports, Bezos wants to provide the post with a “financial cushion” while it experiments and tries to find its feet in a new digital world – while industry analysts suspect the paper could learn a thing or two from Bezos’ wealth of experience with Amazon.
Larry Ellison – Hawaii (well, some of it)
After Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison, went about buying up most of the Hawaiin island of Lanai in 2012, it only made more sense for the billionaire to buy an inter-island airline to get about his new turf.
While Ellison didn’t disclose the price of the deal to buy Hawaii’s Island Air, it came shortly after the billionaire spent over $600 million on Lanai island real estate. Lanai Island is Hawaii’s sixth largest, and Ellison now owns 98% of it.
If one airline wasn’t enough, it was reported in June 2013 that Ellison was courting yet another Hawaiian airline, go!, though to-date, no official sale announcement has been made.
Richard Branson – Space Tours
What do you do when you’ve plugged into almost every industry out there? If you’re Sir Richard Branson – you look to space.
Branson – who has forged a billion-dollar empire through airlines, gyms, insurance, mobile, trains, credit, records and media – has dared to dream a little bigger, and is looking to tackle the next frontier.
While SpaceX head Elon Musk (listed above) may have already taken the leap into the big black – Virgin Group CEO, Branson is looking to make the starry skies more accessible and (relatively) more affordable with Virgin Galactic.
There have been no official lines from the Virgin Group as to how much the space venture is costing Branson, but it is understood that it’s running well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The first public flight of Virgin Galactic is expected to take place in December 2013, but with a ticket costing US$250,000, future everyday astronauts may yet feature on this list, themselves.
Clive Palmer – Titanic 2 and…Jurassic Park?
Australian billionaire, Clive Palmer, who amassed his wealth through his mining holdings and mining company, Mineralogy, is a big fan of block-buster movies, it seems.
Known for eccentricities and publicity stunts, the businessman is the main driving force behind a planned ocean liner called the Titanic II – which as the name implies, is a modernised replica of the famed RMS Titanic, which sank after crashing into an iceberg in 1912.
The projected cost of such a venture is expected to be around US$500 million, with an estimated completion time in 2016.
However, since the project was announced in April 2012 (far past April Fool’s Day), doubts have been raised about Palmer’s finances and ability to fund the project, with Australian media reporting that “Queenlands wealthiest man” had AUS$1.6 billion stripped from his personal wealth.
Despite doubts over his finances, Palmer is pushing ahead with yet another weird goal: to build the world’s largest animatronic “Jurassic Park” – featuring over 165 robotic dinosaurs.