Thursday, October 12, 2006

Five Ways To Spend A Billion

by Betsy Schiffman

Contrary to popular belief, it's not impossible to spend a billion dollars. It's just not easy. The world's wealthiest can indulge in all sorts of hobbies, habits and passions that those of us with lesser means can only imagine. Our guide looks at five archetypical billionaire spendthrifts--the embezzler, the hopeless romantic, the diva, the fashionista and the kid at heart.


1. Embezzler hires Steven Spielberg (at a rate of $270,000 per day for 130 days) to direct upbeat public relations campaign after he is brought up on fraud charges. Cost: $35.1 million.

2. Campaign is critical success, but the judge isn't swayed. The embezzler is indicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. Donates office wing to future prison home. Cost: $7 million.

3. Upgrades prison gym to include Stairmasters, treadmills and satellite television, allowing inmates to enjoy HBO's Oz. Cost: $4 million.

4. Hires Wolfgang Puck to introduce line of prison meals; produces daily show for Food Network for which Wolfgang Puck cooks gourmet delights from prison-grade meat and vegetables. Show becomes hit. Net gains: $24 million.

5. Embezzler spends $132 million building and marketing a p2p (prisoner-to-prisoner) exchange platform, allowing inmates to exchange goods and services online. Embezzler donates generous "gifts" to warden, takes small percentage of each transaction. Sells platform to Internet Incubator CMGI (nasdaq: CMGI - news - people ) for $121 million. Revenue: $3 million in cigarettes, illicit drugs, pornographic magazines. Net loss after sale: $8 million.

6. Embezzler buys several small children to weep in court to gain judge's sympathy. He gets out early, moves to Mexico, buys beach villa and starts utility company. Cost: $73 million.

7. Hikes energy rates due to a "shortage." Dupes Mexican government out of a couple hundred million; sells DreamWorks the movie rights to his life story, and moves to the Bahamas where he occasionally leases out his mansion for political fundraisers. Net gains: $272 million.

Total Spent: Despite his spend-happy ways, embezzler comes out ahead with a paper profit of $168.9 million, due to creative accounting.

Hopeless Romantic

1. Builds replica of Eiffel Tower in backyard, uses it to propose to first two of four wives. (Eiffel Tower cost in 1889 was $1.5 million, adjusted for inflation, today's cost: $30 million.)

2. Hopeless romantic is also hopelessly insecure: Blows millions on bodily enhancements and research on herbal/pharmaceutical remedies to ensure bedroom activities remain satisfactory. Also covers bodily enhancements/upkeep expenses for significant others. Cost: $22 million.

3. Gets five "I Heart" tattoos for $50,000. Later has them removed. Buys four 7-carat pink diamond engagement rings (averaging $2 million each) Cost: $8 million.

4. Commissions Whitney Houston (at a rate of about $100,000 per day) to sing "I Will Always Love You" at all four weddings (cost: $400,000). Hires Ugly Kid Joe to sing "I Hate Everything About You" at divorce proceedings. Cost: $200, and four six packs of beer. Cost: $400,224.

5. Finally meets and marries woman of long-term dreams. She is tragically abducted, and disappears. Romantic obtains title to 50 acres in Antarctica where he commissions ice replica of Taj Mahal in tribute of his lost love. Ice tribute takes seven years; requires 5,000 workers/ice sculptors. Costs $400 million.

6. Still heart broken, billionaire leaves remaining millions to various centers for sexual and marital health research and matchmakers.

Total Spent: $1 billion

1. In order to fill an Olympic-sized pool with Chanel No. 5 ($250 per ounce), diva must spend $810 million. Frugality prevents her. She settles for annual Chanel No. 5 bath at $1.6 million a pop over 60 years: Cost $96 million.

2. Buys 15-carat blue-diamond necklace Harry Winston replicas of the Titanic necklace for herself; her two daughters and her lapdog. Cost: $80 million.

3. Goes through an average annual shoe budget of $1 million per year ($2,000 per pair) for 50 years; keeps eyebrow shaper/plucker, manicurist/pedicurist, hair colorist and stylist on 24-hour call for 25 years. Cost: $62.5 million.

4. Hires Michael Schumacher as driver ($67 million per year, $1 billion for 15 years); Andre Agassi as tennis coach ($18.5 million per year, $277.5 million for 15 years); and Brad Pitt as the "pool boy" ($24 million per year for one year). Cost: $1.3 billion.

5. Sues father-in-law to obtain greater share of late husband's fortune. Total cost for legal fees: $15 million.

Total Spent: $1.33 billion

Kid At Heart

1. Acquires the late Jim Henson's muppet shop ($140 million), where enthusiastic muppeteers immediately get to work redecorating the billionaire's home. The missus does not approve of toilet dressed as Kermit the Frog, and insists muppets be expelled from home. Billionaire agrees to build "world class" puppet theater. Muppets are not allowed to leave. Cost: $160 million.

2. Takes four kids on annual month-long retreat to Mall of America, where kids spend annual allowance of $1 million each on candy, sporting equipment, stuffed animals and video games. Kids end summer with annual stay at fat camp. Cost: $80 million over 20 years.

3. Private zoo, aquarium, electric train, skateboard ramp, movie theater and tram. Cost: $53 million. Cost for kids' Ritalin prescriptions: $30,000.

4. Lifetime supply of Ben & Jerry's (one pint per day) $70,000; lifetime subscription to Mad magazine ($1,500); lifetime supply of converse sneakers $3,000.

5. Relentlessly optimistic billionaire gets swept up in space travel dreams, and agrees to give away remaining fortune to group of college students trying to scientifically prove Roald Dahl's Great Glass Elevator really can travel space. Cost: $707 million.

Total Spent: $1 billion


1. Hard-nosed fashion mogul spends 12 years and several hundred million obtaining trademark for color "pink." Sues competing designers who use variations of color in spring collections; occasionally sues passersby whose use of the color he finds offensive. Total cost for legal fees: $332 million.

2. Hires and sends migrant workers to swamps across America to pick endangered Blue Jasmine flower. Uses flowers in bathroom wallpaper of country home. Fashionista decides wallpaper is too "rustic" and throws it out. Gets busted and fined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Pays hush money to keep story out of papers. Total cost: $24 million.

3. Fashionista loses 27 high-end platinum, sapphire-crystal face cellular phones (price: $19,450 each, $525,150 in total). Agrees to receive phone-chip implant. Decides last minute not to get implant because he wants a number that has "lots of sixes in it." Buys and loses ten more platinum luxury phones. Total telecommunications costs: $719,650.

4. Smokes two packs of cigarettes a day for 15 years (cost: $54,750). Quits. Fashionista fears lungs might look ugly naked, undergoes black market lung transplant in China for $250,000. Total Cost: $304,750.

5. Unmarried fashionista buys and freezes eggs of five favorite models ($2 million). Buys the two most beautiful orphans from all six continents ($6 million for brokers fees, travel and paperwork). Hires Julie Andrews as governess (gets discount since she won't sing). Total cost: $25 million.

6. In drunken moment of phony generosity, fashionista agrees to underwrite satellite Fashion Institute of Technology campuses in Mumbai and Indianapolis. Total cost: $400 million.

7. At a Paris fashion show, fashionista gets swindled by dashing young Nigerian man who claims to need his "urgent" help. Young man promises fashionista $12 million if he agrees to pose as next of kin to a deceased official who left $25 million behind in a frozen Nigerian bank account. Fashionista agrees, ends up losing $230 million in the scam.

Total Spent: $1 billion



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