Most billionaires don't live like the rest of us - and they often buy or invest in things that we can't, in ways that we can't. Here are just a few things billionaires are able to do with their money that are out of the question for most people. (For a related reading, see What's Your Billionaire Age?)
IN PICTURES: World's Greatest Investors
- Buy an NBA Team
According to the Forbes 2010 NBA team valuations report, the New York Knicks is the most valuable team in the league, coming in at $655 million. Its player expenses alone were $86 million. The next-highest-valued team, the Los Angeles Lakers, is valued at $643 million and owned by Jerry Buss and Philip Anschutz. Forbes estimates the latter's net worth at $7 billion. Anschutz was actually one of 10 billionaire NBA team owners in 2010, along with New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov (worth $13.4 billion) and Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen (worth $12.7 billion). (For more, see Who's Cashing In On Pro Sports Revenue?)
- Gamble on the Next Big Thing
Most people need the security of a regular job with a steady paycheck. If they take risks with their money, it's for things like buying a house and hoping the market will appreciate, or betting they won't need the money they're about to spend on a vacation to buy a new transmission for the car. Billionaires, however, have the luxury of making large investments in just about any company they want. Take Randal Kirk, founder and CEO of New River Pharmaceutical, for example - he's betting on safer and less expensive cancer treatment drugs under development by Ziopharm Oncology.
- Pay Cash for Real Estate
In a financial climate where lenders seem to want to know everything from where that $326 check you deposited on November 3 came from to what brand of food you feed your dog, wouldn't it be nice to skip that process altogether and just write a check for any property you wanted? What's more, cash offers tend to be more competitive, because sellers know that a cash deal is a done deal.
IN PICTURES: 7 Tips On Buying A Home In A Down Market
Fund a Foundation or Charity
No, you don't have to be a billionaire to start a nonprofit organization - ordinary folks do it all the time. But they have to spend a great deal of time and effort on fundraising if they want to achieve their goals, and their efforts may be limited to a small geographic area.
Billionaires, on the other hand, can start a foundation or charity, move a chunk of their money into it, and their new organization is ready to go. In fact, smaller charities often turn to billionaire charities for grants. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the tens of billionaire foundations that has the resources to fund initiative on every continent. (For more, check out What Billionaires Do After Retirement.)
Fund a Major Motion Picture
That's what billionaires Philip Anschutz, Tim Headington, Jeff Skoll and Arnon Milchan have done with part of the fortunes they made in fiber optics, energy, eBay, pharmaceuticals and other business ventures. These billionaire investors have helped bring us hits such as "Ray", "The Aviator", "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Fight Club", among others (including several films that weren't so successful). Most of us would have trouble even coming up with the budget to produce a modest film like Kevin Smith's "Clerks", which cost $27,000 to make in the 1994. (For a related reading, see Movie Genres That Make The Most Money.)
The Bottom Line
While most of us would consider a floor seat at an NBA game a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, some billionaires can afford to buy a whole team. But that's okay, because without the visions, risk-taking and wealth of the ultra-rich, we might not have many of the forms of entertainment, live-saving drugs or good deeds that we take for granted.