More money, more problems – if hangars filled with luxury cars can be considered a “problem.” The world’s wealthiest people live on a different strata than the rest of us, in a number of ways. While some – like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and even Mark Zuckerberg – have initiated processes to give back through different means, most of the world’s super-rich live lives of untold luxury. Private planes, personal chefs, and carefree days spent on tropical beaches. It’s a life most yearn for, but very few will ever taste.
And how they get there, these days anyway, more or less follows a blueprint. Many of today’s new super-rich are amassing their fortunes through innovation and new, disruptive business models. They’re coming from emerging markets, where opportunity abounds, and operating costs are lower. They’re living out ‘”rags to riches” type stories – as opposed to the old guard, which inherited their money, or achieved through political or family connections.
But for those who have managed to come into tremendous wealth, no matter the means, there are certain ways in which that money is spent (or in which that wealth is displayed, rather) that are, simply put, over the top. Again, most of us would be happy with a new car, a house, and some exotic vacations. Yet, there are those out there who seem to want to literally buy up governments, construct palaces, or even create entire communities for themselves. It’s a bit Colonel Kurtzish.
Here are a handful of those purchases and displays.
1. A Versailles replica
Buying a house isn’t extraordinary. But buying the biggest house in America? Modeled after the French palace of Versailles? That’s a bit much. But it didn’t stop Jackie and David Siegel from trying. There was a documentary that followed their attempt, and here’s the trailer:
Ultimately, things didn’t work out. Perhaps they dreamed a bit too big? Or were victims of bad timing, as the Great Recession hit?
2. An entire town
When you run a pizza empire, what do you do with the spoils? Why not create your very own planned community? That’s exactly what Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan did in Florida, with the founding of the Ave Maria – a planned Catholic community. If you love gators, the Virgin Mary, and humidity, this looks like the place to be. Slate has a piece with several photos, and it looks like a pretty nice place. But weird? You bet.
Many of our most powerful and wealthy modern universities have their roots in the “robber baron” era of centuries past. Think about it – Carnegie Mellon, Vanderbilt, Drexel, etc. All named after hugely wealthy and successful families, with vast fortunes. That’s not to say anything about the quality of the product that these universities offer, which by all measures is top-notch. But universities have been used by the wealthy and elite in a number of ways. Hell, now you can just start your own – like Trump University.
4. A flying palace
The Saudi royal family has more wealth than any of us can even begin to comprehend, and they display it in a number of dazzling ways. But few were more over the top than the purchase of a $500 million “flying palace” – a customized Airbus A380 jetliner that came with every frill you can imagine. Just check out the video above for a taste. The only bummer? Airbus engineers refused to include a swimming pool that was requested.
5. Personal skyscrapers
If you live in a relatively rough city, say, Mumbai – how can you full insulate yourself? How about building your own skyscraper? That’s exactly what Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani did, buying the world’s most expensive home for $1 billion a few years ago. It’s 550 feet tall, has 400,000 square feet of living space, six floors for parking, and nine elevators. Oh, and there are three helipads.
It’s no secret that money buys you power and influence in the United States, and over the past few election cycles, it’s really become obvious. The Koch brothers are always quick to enter the conversation, as they have spent billions in efforts to influence elections and policy. They’re by no means alone, though – and the money is flowing in from all corners. But by and large, the wealthy are the big donors fueling political races – and resulting legislation – across the country. During 2014, for example, 32,000 wealthy individuals contributed $1.18 billion.