Toys of Billionaires
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 28, 2011
Billionaires have it all – from fancy homes to exotic cars. But they also have some of the coolest toys.
When you have that much money, you can pretty much fulfill whatever childhood fantasy you want – from riding in the Batmobile to rocketing into outer space.
The Fastest Car in the World
No matter how old you are, you never lose that need for speed.
The Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4, designed by Volkswagen, holds two world titles: It’s the most expensive car at $1.25 million but what your inner eight-year-old will be more impressed with is that it’s the fastest road-legal car in the world.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is a billionaire who knows how to do it with style: He owns his own island, Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, and to better explore her waters, he bought a submarine – sorry, the “world’s first underwater aircraft.”
The “Necker Nymph,” as it’s called, looks like something out of a James Bond movie and does resemble a plane. It’s a smooth ride, with an open cockpit, which allows for a nearly 360-degree view.
Not one to miss an opportunity to make money, Branson rents out the submarine to visitors to Necker Island for the low, low price of $25,000 a week.
“Uncover ancient shipwrecks, fly side-by-side with dolphins, or spyhop with whales; the options are endless,” the company says in its pitch.
If you’re wondering what you’d have to do to be able to afford something as cool as the Batmobile, you might think – make a lot of money on stocks or hit it big in real estate.
The correct answer, in fact, is make tasty chicken.
The Batmobile from the 1992 movie “Batman Returns” is owned by Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, who bought the car for a cool $250,000. Incidentally, Cathy, who’s such a devout Baptist that his stores are closed on Sundays, also owns three firetrucks and a racecar from the “Days of Thunder.”
Dunna nunna nunna nuh … Chick man!
The World’s Biggest Yacht
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who built his fortune by investing in everything from black-market goods to pig farms, has at least four yachts, which has been dubbed, “The Abramovich Navy.”
One of those is the world’s biggest yacht, the Eclipse, which clocks in at 533 feet, with a price tag of nearly $1.2 billion.
It has two helicopter pads, 11 guest cabins, not one but TWO swimming pools, an exterior fireplace, a dance hall and a missile-detection system. Plus, Abramovich had an “anti-paparazzi” shield installed, which uses lasers to detect a camera and ruin any photographs. Oh, and it goes without saying – It also comes with its own three-person submarine.
Da Vinci’s Notebook
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the richest man in America, has, as you might expect, a super high-tech house that is said to detect your personal settings for temperature, music, television – even art – as you walk into a room. But perhaps the most intriguing “toy” he owns is low-tech — it’s one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks.
Known as the “Leicester Codex,” Gates bought the notebook at an auction in 1994 for $30.8 million, the most expensive book ever sold. The book contains Da Vinci’s scientific musings on everything from why fossils can be found on mountains to the movement of water and the luminosity of the moon. (Did that not just give you goosebumps?)
Like Branson, Gates isn’t one to keep his toys to himself – or miss out on an opportunity to turn a profit from them. He allows the book to be put on display at a museum in a different city once a year. He also had the book’s pages scanned and released it on CD. It’s available for $14 on Amazon.
You were right! You could’ve written the Da Vinci Code yourself. Everything you needed to crack the code was right at your fingertips!
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s arsenal of toys also contains some non high-tech wonders: He collects and restores World War II planes.
He’s got 20 of the planes so far, including a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, a Curtiss 40C Tomahawk and the Polikarpov U-2/Po-2 (pictured left).
Natch, he’s got his own private hanger – that’s how you roll when you’re a billionaire – but he’s also opened a museum, “The Flying Heritage,” at Paine Field in Everett, Wash., to share his collection – and the technological insights you can glean from it – with the public.
The real bonus in having a museum created by a billionaire – and a techie billionaire at that – is that each plane is restored with “the highest level of authenticity that money and technology can buy,” according to Adrian Hunt, the executive director of the museum. And yep, they fly – All but three of them are flown during shows in the summer.
This next one is for would-be Cinderellas and brave knights: A castle.
Castles have been turned into everything from museums to hotels but many are privately owned, including the Chateau de Farcheville, a 14th century castle in Bouville near Paris (pictured left), which is currently on sale for $57 million. It has 15 bedrooms, its own hunting grounds, a helipad and – wait for it – a MOAT.
Of course, your best chances for buying your own castle are in Europe but there are some right here in America, including CastlePost in Kentucky, which is on sale for the low, low price of $30 million.
You would literally be the king of your own castle!
Your Own Private Fire Brigade
You can imagine that George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones,” has some pretty cool toys. But one of the coolest things he’s got at his $100 million Skywalker Ranch near Nicasio, Calif., is his own fire brigade.
OK, OK. Firemen aren’t toys – unless you’re Samantha from “Sex and the City.” But seriously, your own fire brigade?!
The Skywalker Ranch Fire Brigade has 12 full-time firefighters, plus a few volunteers, and two fire trucks.
Their primary job is to protect Skywalker Ranch, which also includes a big production facility for Lucas Films, but they work closely with the nearby Marinwood Fire Department and help out when needed.
Gentlemen, may the force be with you.
A Fighter Jet
Having your own fleet of jets when you’re a billionaire isn’t that extraordinary. But guess what’s in the fleet of Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin?
A fighter jet.
It’s a Dornier Alpha Jet, which is classified as a light attack jet and advanced trainer aircraft. But wait, the cool doesn’t stop there: The jet is equipped with scientific instruments for missions for NASA.
Google keeps its fleet, including the Alpha, at NASA-owned Moffett Field in northern California, and has worked with the space agency for years – providing atmospheric data from equipment on its jets, transporting NASA equipment, and mapping the moon and Mars with Google software.
It’s not clear why they would need a fighter jet, other than the cool factor, but all I can say is – this ups the game in the “war” with Microsoft!
The space race is going private and billionaires including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin’s Richard Branson (pictured left) have their own spaceships.
Bezos’s space venture, called Blue Origin, has a ship called “New Shepard,” which is cone-shaped with rockets on the bottom, so it takes off and lands vertically. It will accelerate for approximately two minutes before the rockets shut off and it coasts into space. It’s still in the testing phase: They plan to do unmanned flights starting next year and manned flights in 2012.
Branson’s space company, Virgin Galactic, is also still in the testing phase and recently completed the first manned flight of its VSS Enterprise spaceship (pictured left), which looks like a space shuttle with its jet-like body, but has one major difference: It has two tall fins on the back instead of one. The ship is 60 feet long and the cabin is 90 inches in diameter.
Virgin Galactic is currently taking reservations for those who want to be the first space tourists. Each passenger gets a seat with two windows, and, of course, the option to get up and “float” freely about the cabin!