A comfortable home, a reliable car, a week-long vacation--just some of the little things that make most of us tick.
Of course, these basics depend on the size of our bank accounts. So what happens when you have enough money to buy almost anything in the world?
Well, for one thing, your list of essentials certainly improves.
Take Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. His lavish Woodside, Calif., estate, which has been estimated at $100 million, features feudal Japanese architecture, a man-made lake and approximately seven additional buildings.
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Bill Gates' 66,000-square-foot spread is built into a hillside on the edge of Lake Washington, near Seattle. It boasts a 60-foot swimming pool with an underwater music system and a 1,000-square-foot dining room.
Though the extent of luxury may vary--both homes are in stark contrast to Warren Buffett's modest Omaha, Neb., abode, which he's called home for nearly 50 years and is valued at $500,000 to $700,000--one thing is for sure. Privacy and exclusivity are some of the most sought-after privileges among the billionaire set.
The explosive popularity of personal-use jets is a perfect example.
Only the very wealthy opt to have full ownership of a private jet, which carries huge maintenance fees, insurance costs, multiple permits and gas requirements.
But it is a luxury so enticing that even Warren Buffett couldn't resist. He is the proud owner of a Gulfstream IV, which he jokingly named "The Indefensible" after having once mocked corporate jet ownership. These planes, which can accommodate as many as 16 passengers, usually sell for about million and up, depending on the make, mileage and amenities.
Flying private is so desirable, in fact, that fractional ownership or chartering of personal-use jets is another option.
Though they are shared, these chartered jets do not skimp on luxury.
"It's got everything you can think of," says Wayne J. Rizzi of the Boeing Business Jet. Rizzi should know--he's CEO of Air Royale International, a 24-hour worldwide private air charter service that counts executives at Paramount Pictures and Warner Records as clients. A massive, 18-passenger aircraft, the Boeing commands a $143,000 one-way and $234,000 round-trip fare for a Van Nuys, Calif.-St. Kitts journey. "The best TV sets, a state-of-the-art galley, master bedroom with queen-sized bed, walk-in shower, plush leather seating," he adds. "It's like flying in your living room, literally."
Pricey Pleasure Crafts
Should the billionaire ever feel a little airsick, though, it is necessary to have a backup--the megayacht.
The Octopus, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's $200+ million sea monster, has a permanent crew of 60, two helicopters, a 10-man submarine and seven boats.
Those wishing to emulate Allen might seek out Monaco-based Wally Yachts. This outfitter will provide you with your own 279-foot vessel, complete with a gym, home theater and smaller sailing vessels. Price tag? Prepare to part with upward of $80 million.
So where are these billionaires heading on their jets and yachts? Why, to their private islands of course.
Richard Branson purchased the 74-acre Necker Island (located in the British Virgin Islands) in 1982 and transformed it into a lush private resort that can accommodate just under 30 guests for about $1,700 per person, per night.
Most owners of private islands, though, prefer to keep them for themselves, as an escape destination or to at least keep publicity to a minimum. Billionaires Ted Turner and David Murdock have laid claim to their own water-locked terrains, inhabiting St. Phyllis Island in South Carolina and Lanai Isle in Hawaii, respectively.
Want one of your own? The 20-acre Sandy Island, located off the coast of Grenada, is on the market for $20 million. It is one of only four for sale in the Windward Islands and includes a coconut grove, forested hills and a quarter mile of untarnished beach.
Those in the luxury business say the über-wealthy crave these essentials because they separate them from the general population. But when an item is rare, you can bet that it jumps to the top of the must-have list.
"When you tell people with money [that] something is impossible to get, guess what they focus on?" quips Randy Mattison, general manager of Motorcars International, a dealership that specializes in providing exceptional luxury and exotic cars such as Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches and Bentleys.
Mattison refers in particular to Ferraris and other ultraperformance sports cars that currently top the market. These cars are built only in limited quantities and often sell for $100,000 to $200,000 over sticker prices that are already listed as $350,000. Exotic carmakers like to ensure that there are more interested buyers than cars, and as a result, the consumers are willing to pay far above the listing price to get their hands on one.
For example, only 64 street versions of the McLaren F1 supercar, produced from 1994 to 1998, have been built, and they sell anywhere from $1.3 million to $1.7 million. At last count, there were nine in the U.S.--and billionaire Ralph Lauren has two of them.
Even the way they purchase all of these essentials is exclusive.
American Express' Centurion Card, aka the "Black AmEx," is available only by invitation.
It's "designed for our most wealthy customers who travel frequently, who want and need high levels of personalized service," explains Monica Beaupre, a spokeswoman for American Express. "Because it's by invitation only, it's not a mainstream product and so we really just preserve the specialness of it." The Black Card is so exclusive, in fact, that American Express will say very little about it or any of its rewards or statistics.
Many billionaire essentials are necessary simply because they make life easier.
Personal assistants and domestic staff help eliminate tedious, everyday chores, such as scheduling appointments and meetings, fielding phone calls and maintaining the household. The private chef is just as essential, and rarely is there only one.
"Most billionaires employ anywhere from two to three chefs because they usually have a traveling chef, and then they might have children, or a huge staff that needs to be fed," says Christian Paier, president of Private Chefs, a company that features Bill Gates and Ron Perelman amongst its impressive list of past and present customers. "And a lot of billionaires these days all own yachts. Naturally, on a yacht, the staff lives [there.]"
And then of course there are the essentials that are there simply to reaffirm that, "Yes, I am rich."
Concierge services act as personal genies for the billionaire populus, allowing them to realize literally any desire, be it hot air ballooning, chartering yachts and helicopters, renting private islands or arranging VIP events.
Ownership of professional sports teams is another popular choice, as are exorbitantly priced clothing, artwork and gadgets, all bought simply because billionaires can. One of Mr. Mattison's billionaire customers at Motorcars International traded his car 92 times in one year, and the cheapest auto he bought cost $70,000.
All because they can. And with this list of billionaire essentials, so can you.