One thing's for sure: when a billionaire goes on a spending spree, it's sure to hit the news. After all, it's hard to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars without someone taking notice. Read on for some of the top billionaire spending sprees to hit the news - and to find out what they bought.
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Malibu? I'll Take It!
Exactly where Oracle (Nasdaq:ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison's spending sprees begin and end are hard to pinpoint. With an estimated net worth of $28 billion in 2010, he has a lot of disposable income, but he doesn't keep it squirreled away. In 2004 and 2005, he made headlines when he bought up more than 12 properties in Malibu, California, including five contiguous ocean-front properties, restaurants and hotels, spending an estimated $180 million. Ellison has also cashed out on a number of sports acquisitions, most recently spending $100 million to buy the BNP Paribas Open Tennis Tournament.
This year, it looked like Ellison was poised to raise his spending to a whole new level, when it was reported that the was bidding to buy the National Basketball Association's Warriors. The deal closed in July at an NBA-record breaking $450 million, but Ellison lost out to another bidder.
The $50,000 Dollar Lunch?
Roman Abramovich, a Russian businessman and the owner of a private investment company is well-known for his lavish lifestyle and one very luxurious - although disputed - lunch. In 2009, he made news when he purchased one of the most expensive private homes ever sold: a $90 million estate in St. Barts. But Abramovich has a number of other spectacular possessions, including the world's largest privately owned yacht, a Colorado ski estate, England's Chelsea soccer team and a $100 million art collection. (Interested in investing in some real estate of your own? Check out 5 Things Every Real Estate Pro Knows.)
And the lunch? In November 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that Abramovich had indulged in a $52,000 lunch in New York City for himself and nine guests, including more than a $12,000 tip, although the Journal later reported that a spokesman for the Russian billionaire had denied the claims, saying that the bill had been only a "a couple of percent" of the reported size.
Pick, Me! Pick, Me!
In a less conventional spending spree, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg won his reelection bid in 2009 in a campaign that required him to shell out a record amount of his own $18 billion fortune. According to a November 2009 report in AFP, Bloomberg burned through up to $1 million per day, outspending his rival by 15 to 1 in a $100 million political showdown. Bloomberg's spending on his past three elections obliterated the previous U.S. record for self-financed political campaigns, according to the New York Times.
Although money may have helped Bloomberg keep his seat, he has generally maintained high approval ratings from New York City voters, suggesting there's more than money behind his success. (To read more about political campaigns and politicians' promises, see Talk Is Cheap: Campaign Promises And The Economy.)
In 2008, Forbes ranked Warren Buffett as the richest man in the world, with a net worth of approximately $62 billion. The famously-frugal Buffett has never been a big spender. Throughout his career, he has condemned big spending by CEOs, even labeling his company's $10 million private jet "The Indefensible". He has lived a relatively modest life for such an incredibly wealthy man.
But what to do with all that money? In 2006, Buffett announced he would donate more than 80% of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. At the time, this amounted to more than $30 billion, making it the biggest charitable donation ever. (For more on the "Oracle of Omaha", check out Think Like Warren Buffett and Warren Buffett's Frugal, So Why Aren't You?)
Now THAT's a Party
To name just one billionaire who burned through cash on a lavish party would be impossible, so let's check out at a few of the top contenders.
In 2004, Indian steel tycoon and CEO of ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT) Lakshmi Mittal threw his daughter a six-day wedding for 1,000 guests at the Palace of Versailles, complete with a performance by pop-star Kylie Minogue. According to Outlook, a leading Indian magazine, Mitall "summons all the romance of Paris to gift his daughter-and his guests-a fairytale wedding. The BBC estimated the cost of the wedding at more than $55 million.
In 2005, the BBC reported that British retail billionaire Philip Green had spent $7.5 million on his son's bar mitzvah, a three-day event on the French Riviera that included a concert by Destiny's Child for 200 of Green's family and friends.
In July, the New York Post reported that a Malaysian billionaire Zhen Low had squared off against Winston Fisher, a prominent New Yorker from a real-estate family, to see if they could break the world record for ordering the most champagne. They succeeded - and they have a $2.6 million bar tab to prove it.
The Bottom Line
These spending sprees may sound lavish, but when you put it in perspective, these billionaires have cash to spend and they do it in style. Wouldn't you?
Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: A Diving Dow And Rotting Eggs.