Billionaires possess the unique ability to buy almost anything that they wish for. Like everyone else, they buy toys. Unlike everyone else, they buy really, really, really expensive toys.
By “toy” we mean nonessential objects that give pleasure to the owner. No one truly needs a yacht, a private island, polo ponies or a 10,000-bottle wine cellar. However, when one has over a billion dollars in the bank, one no longer has to worry about need; all that matters is what one wants.
Private planes are to billionaires what Ferraris are to programmers who have cashed in their stock options: The thing they’ve always wanted and now can finally afford. The Gulfstream-V (G-V), which retails for around $40 million, is among the most popular models (pictured). Satisfied customers include Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs and Broadcast.com founder Mark Cuban , who both own G-Vs. Cuban is said to have purchased his through the Internet, which would make him the biggest e-commerce customer of all time.
Many extremely wealthy individuals–such as the Rockefellers, Gunds and Gettys–have been collecting for years, but for the high-tech billionaires, it’s a more recent passion. Bill Gates , co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, was one of the first and has made several headlines through his purchase of celebrated works of art, the most important of which was when he paid approximately $30 million in 1994 for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Leicester Codex.
There is a reason why a getaway is called what it is–because people don’t want to be found. Every billionaire owns at least one, but the whereabouts of most are jealously guarded. Media mogul Robert E. (Ted) Turner has made no secret about his. Over the years, he has spent nearly half a billion dollars acquiring land around the world–including 13 separate ranches in six Western states, totaling 1.7 million acres–making him the largest landholder in the United States outside of the federal government, of course.
It is easy to say that a billionaire, like an 800-pound gorilla, can wear anything he wants. But, despite the general slovenliness espoused by geeks like Bill Gates during the 1990s, billionaires are now getting older, getting married and, unsurprisingly, dressing better. Gates himself is now looking better, thanks in part to the skill of master tailor Gian DeCaro, whose Seattle shop has made $2,000 hand-sewn suits for most of the city’s high-tech elite.
Sales of yachts and other big-ticket vessels have also escalated in the past several years, and, unsurprisingly, a number of them are now being skippered by billionaires. Larry Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle has made plenty of waves in his quest to win back the America’s Cup. Former Netscape chief Jim Clark decided that the 155-foot sailboat he had built in 1998 wasn’t big enough, so he commissioned a multi-million dollar, 292-foot three-master that when completed will be the world’s largest sloop.