The Surprising Things Billionaires Spend Their Money On

By Jake Schroeder
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There’s plenty of information out there about how billionaires make their money, but we don't know nearly as much about how they spend it. And because there are so many new billionaires, the world really could use a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous reboot.

What kind of jet does Jeff Bezos have? What cool feature is in Elon Musk's house? Let's dig into the most expensive purchases, donations and investments of the world's billionaires.

Jeff Bezos Spent $65 Million on a Private Jet

Have you heard of a Gulfstream G650ER? This luxury private jet may be unheard of to the average person, but it’s one of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's favorite ways to get around. This private jet only seats eight passengers, and that's enough for Bezos.

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The going price for these private planes is around $65 million. They can accelerate to record speeds, and they come with four separate living spaces. Although eight passengers can fit, the passengers can decide whether to sit around a table, sit on the couch, sit alone or sit with friends. Bezos's plane probably has other unique features, too.

Elon Musk Bought a $100,000 Bond Car

As the CEO of the Tesla car brand, you might think that a souped-up Tesla would be Elon Musk's fanciest ride. While he might own expensive cars, one of them is extremely rare. He purchased the beauty at an auction in London for no less than $100,000.

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The car is a 1976 Lotus Esprit. You may have never heard of it, but you've probably seen it. This car was used in an iconic scene in the James Bond franchise when Bond drove it into the ocean. A special Esprit-shaped submarine was created for filming the movie, though.

Kochouseph Chittilappilly Gave $79 Million to Charity

Kochouseph Chittilappilly is an Indian billionaire who made his fortune in the electronics and appliances business. Although he’s still working, he’s now well into his sixties. While most people spend this stage of life vacationing and taking it easy, this billionaire has started a new project — the K. Chittilappilly Foundation.

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The foundation works in India and helps to give people who are poor and/or commonly discriminated against access to education and healthcare. The organization also fights to raise awareness of and funds for organ donation, which is a cause close to Chittilappilly's heart because he donated a kidney.


Mark Cuban Has a $40-million Time-saver

Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and is a serial investor. He earned his spot in the Guinness Book of World Records when he bought a $40 million Gulfstream private jet via the internet. That was the most money an individual had spent on a single purchase online.

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Although a private jet may seem like a luxurious splurge, Cuban had practical reasons for getting one. The one thing even a billionaire cannot buy is time, but Cuban says he's able to save copious amounts of it by not having to tailor his hectic schedules around commercial flights.

Bill Gates Gave $10 Billion to Three Charities

Access to healthcare is close to Bill Gates's heart. Preventable diseases and lack of medical supplies are two factors responsible for the deaths of millions of people annually. That's why Bill Gates made hefty donations to three organizations.

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The Vaccine Alliance, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Global Fund all work in different areas of the world to ensure that people in the poorest, most remote places are able to get vaccines and medication. Collectively, he gave $10 billion to the three organizations, and they have done an estimated $200 million worth of good for the world so far with his generous donations.

Mark Zuckerberg Owns a Sweet $72.8-million Hawaiian Estate

Farming is the last thing that comes to people's minds when they think of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder. But Zuckerberg happens to be the owner of a huge sugar cane plantation in Hawaii. The plantation, which covers around 700 acres, sits beside a breathtaking white sand beach.

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Some people buy vacation homes, but Mark Zuckerberg paid almost $100 million for a vacation estate. In addition to providing countless vacations for a lifetime, Zuckerberg's sprawling Hawaiian estate is also an investment because he can profit from the thousands of pounds worth of sugar cane produced on the plantation.


Bill Gates Had a $40-million "Big Splurge"

Private jets are to billionaires what cars are to thousandaires. It makes sense that Bill Gates, the richest man in the world for several years, would have one of the most expensive ones. Unlike commercial planes, private jets have just a few seats.

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Bill Gates's $40-million BD-700 Global Express seats 19 people, which allows Gates to travel in style with his guests. He has a nickname for this behemoth in the skies. He calls it Big Splurge. The jet comes with two kitchens, two bathrooms and a bedroom. There's plenty of room for Gates, his guests and his crew.

Adam Neuman's $21-million-dollar Home Has a Guitar Room

Adam Neuman is the wealthy founder of WeWork. Although he has stepped away from the company, that hasn't stopped him from making plenty of real estate investments. The Bay Area is known for being a hotbed for plenty of cutting-edge technology companies.

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It only fits that San Francisco is where Neuman bought one of his most expensive homes. The house cost $21 million, and it’s full of unique features. One of the many rooms in the home is shaped just like a guitar. If Neuman ever wants to sell, this exclusive feature will likely attract plenty of buyers — if they can afford it.

Bill Gates Paid $30 Million for a Leonardo da Vinci Manuscript

Leonardo da Vinci was an accomplished artist and scientist. Over the years, much of his life's work has been discovered. Some of his lesser-known works include sketchbooks and half-finished scientific musings. Bill Gates is the proud owner of the $30-million Codex Leicester.

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Photo Courtesy: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Although da Vinci never went to Leicester, the manuscript is named after the Earl of Leicester, who bought the book when it was initially discovered. The antiquated journal is written in Italian, and it includes detailed sketches and explanations of experiments da Vinci was working on. Gates has loaned the manuscript to museums across the country.


Richard Branson Bought an Island for $180,000

Sir Richard Branson is the entrepreneurial genius behind the Virgin brands. He lives on Necker Island, the private island that he bought. Branson purchased the 74-acre island before he was a billionaire when he could only afford to pay around $100,000 for it.

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The island's original asking price was $6 million, so the owner was understandably offended by Branson's low offer. When the island was still for sale a year later, Branson was able to negotiate a $180,000 asking price. Hurricane Maria devastated Necker Island, but it’s on the way to becoming the stunning oasis it once was.

Elon Musk Bought a $17-million House in Bel Air

Like The Fresh Prince, Elon Musk lives in a mansion in Bel Air. Of course, he owns impressive properties all over the world, but his Bel Air mansion is one of the more lavish homes Musk has. He purchased the jaw-dropping house for $17 million.

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In addition to the luxurious living quarters, there’s a two-story private library full of Musk's favorite books. For entertaining guests, Musk has a sprawling wine cellar. The cellar houses 1,000 bottles of the finest wines on Earth. This home is one of several that Musk owns in the same exclusive neighborhood.

Larry Ellison Bought Some Amazing Yachts

Larry Ellison, the technologically inclined mind behind Oracle, owns a yacht called Musashi that’s nearly 300 feet long. The aesthetic elements of the yacht are influenced by traditional Japanese decor. It has its own movie theater and a glass elevator.

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There’s room for 18 passengers and a crew of more than 20 people to live comfortably on this mega yacht. It takes four diesel engines to keep the Musashi moving. If you think the Musashi is nice, your jaw would drop at the features in the Rising Sun, an even bigger yacht that Ellison sold for $300 million.


Bill Gates Paid $161 Million to Be Part Owner of the Ritz Carlton

In addition to running Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates is also the founder of Cascade Investment. Through the company, Bill Gates and other private investors make large purchases of businesses and properties together. Bill Gates contributed $161 million towards the investment group’s purchase of the iconic Ritz Carlton in San Francisco.

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Aside from Gates's large contribution, many other investors paid towards the total asking price of the hotel. On top of always having a great place to stay in San Francisco, Gates also earns income from the profits that come from guests staying there.

Michael Dell Paid $40 Million for a Four Seasons Penthouse

Plenty of people have a favorite room in a hotel, but very few people are able to buy said room. Michael Dell, the namesake founder of computer company Dell, purchased the penthouse of The Four Seasons in Boston. Dell's is one of three penthouses built in the skyscraper.

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The Four Seasons complex is over 60 stories high, and it includes a hotel and residential areas, all built by the hospitality giant. The penthouse has at least four bedrooms, and it boasts amazing views of the Boston skyline. Some of the amenities include a spa, an indoor golf simulator and a pool.

Jeff Bezos Spent His Vacation on a Submarine

It's not all about the things money can buy. Experiences provide memories that last a lifetime. Jeff Bezos lived on a submarine for a three-week vacation of sorts. He and his team explored the ocean floor for artifacts.

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They found the booster rockets from the Apollo 11 launch, and Bezos donated the wreckage to Seattle's Museum of Flight. There's not a public price tag for this excursion, but it's safe to say that Bezos had to pay a pretty penny. He does this kind of thing so often that he has a blog called Bezos Expeditions.


Oprah Winfrey Bought 10% of Weight Watchers for $43 Million

Weight Watchers, now known as WW, has been a big player in the multi-billion-dollar weight-loss industry for decades. Oprah Winfrey claimed a stake in the iconic brand when she paid $43 million for 10% of the company in 2015.

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Since then, she has seen more than a ten-fold return on her investment. In addition, Winfrey, who has always been a trendsetter, makes for one useful brand ambassador. She’s a board member at WW and makes frequent appearances in the company's advertisements. The brand continues to find innovative ways to remain relevant in the changing world of nutrition.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin Bought a Private Airport for $82 Million

Plenty of billionaires own private jets, but how many can say they own private airports? Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page purchased a private airport together for $82 million. It’s unclear whether their private airport is used for Google business, for personal pleasure or for both.

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While the airport doesn’t accept commercial flights, one of the planes that makes frequent appearances is the Boeing 767-200 that the Google co-founders acquired as a joint purchase. Page and Brin certainly don't seem to be getting tired of each other. Friends who work hard together play hard together.

Michael Dell Has Spent $100 Million on His Photography Collection

MSD Capital is the company Michael Dell uses to grow and distribute his wealth. Through the company, he was able to explore his love of photography. Dell purchased a collection of more than 180,000 pictures. It’s unclear how much he paid, but it’s valued at around $100 million.

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Although Dell owns the humongous vintage photo collection, the photos are in the possession of the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to being extremely valuable, the pictures give plenty of historical, scientific and sociological insights.


Steve Cohen Bought a Preserved Shark for $8 Million

People have a lot of strange decorations in their homes. Some people have dolls that are...less than adorable. Others have pictures with eyes that seem to follow you around the room. If you ever have the pleasure of visiting Steve Cohen, you may just see a shark in the living room.

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The shark isn’t still living, though. It floats suspended in a mixture of formaldehyde and alcohol. When this preserved shark was first made, it was part of an art exhibit that sold for nearly $100,000. Since then, its value increased significantly, and Steve Cohen purchased it.

Oprah Winfrey Has Spent $140 Million on the Gift of Education

Oprah Winfrey grew up in poverty in rural America. Her life changed when she went to college and learned the skills necessary to further her career. Millions of young women become stuck in a cycle of poverty simply because their families cannot afford an education.

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In 2007, Oprah opened up a school for girls in Africa. Since then, Oprah has been footing the bill (over $140 million to date) for everything necessary to keep the school running and give students the resources they need to succeed. This ongoing philanthropic cause has been life-changing for the girls involved with this unique school.

Alice Walton Paid $88.8 Million for Artwork

Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress, paid $88.8 million for a highly sought-after Robert Rauschenberg silkscreen painting. The painting, called "Buffalo II," depicts the late President John F. Kennedy, along with other historically significant symbols.

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Walton bought this painting from a famous auction house, Christie's, but it wasn’t her first foray into the world of fine art. She owns the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in her home town of Bentonville, Arkansas. Walton is the owner of one of Georgia O'Keeffe's original works of art. She also has a private art collection outside of the museum.


Laurene Powell Jobs Donated $50 Million Toward Education Reform

Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, is using her large fortune for philanthropy. She founded the Emerson Collective, a company that invests in startups and nonprofits that help the environment, immigrants and education. She has donated $50 million of her funds towards XQ: The Super School Project.

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Powell Jobs is concerned that traditional high schools don't adequately prepare students for the current job market, and she wants to ensure students get enough training in technology. She plans to give the money to five innovative teams that come up with high school models that can address these needs.

Sergey Brin Pays $1,760 a Month for Trapeze Lessons

Some people enjoy painting. Others enjoy tennis. What kind of hobbies does a billionaire have? Google co-founder Sergey Brin spends his free time flying through the air on a trapeze. New York is a show biz city, and regular trapeze lessons are available at Circus Warehouse.

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Brin has been taking lessons for some time. A month's worth of lessons costs $1,760. To put that into perspective, this billionaire spends more than the average American pays for housing each month on recreational activity. With all of the lessons, maybe Brin will make an appearance in a circus one day.

Oprah Winfrey Spent $9.2 Million on a Vacation for Her Staff

On her talk show, Oprah Winfrey was known for giving expensive gifts to everyone in her audience. She did the same for all of her staff members in 2009. For 10 days, Oprah and more than a hundred employees cruised around and beyond the Mediterranean region.

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The cruise went to Turkey, Greece, Spain, Malta and Italy on the all-expenses-paid vacation of a lifetime. Needless to say, Oprah has a very large staff, so there were plenty of people in attendance on the cruise. No wonder the gesture cost Oprah $9.2 million. That's one way of bonding with workmates!


Kylie Jenner Spent More Than $400,000 on a Purse Collection

Kylie Jenner is more than a reality star. Although her family name may have helped her become famous, her family didn’t build a cosmetics line for her. This young billionaire has an impressive handbag collection. She’s acquired it over time, and it’s estimated to be worth at least $400,000.

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The bags are from respected designers such as Hermes, Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. These aren't the kinds of bags you can buy in the regular high-end boutiques, though. Rather, Jenner has collected exclusive designs that were sold for a limited time.

Michael Dell and Rob Walton Own a $280-million Hawaiian Hotel

Michael Dell is the founder of Dell, and Rob Walton is the son of Walmart's founder. Back in 2006, the two billionaires purchased the tropical Four Seasons Resort in Hualalai, Hawaii. A Four Seasons in Hawaii can only be luxurious, but this hotel really takes the cake.

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The location has won plenty of hospitality-industry awards. Rooms with breathtaking Pacific Ocean views are listed for around $18,000 nightly. These two business-minded billionaires made a fun purchase that also pays for itself in profits. The investment group that represents Dell and Walton paid $280 million for the hotel.

Mark Zuckerberg Spent $1.3 Million on a Car You've Probably Never Heard Of

Mark Zuckerberg, like some other billionaires, isn’t known for being flashy. He has a lot of money, but his college-student fashion sense and the car he drives don't necessarily show it. Although he’s often photographed cruising around in a Honda Fit, Zuckerberg does have a sports car one would expect from a young billionaire.

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He paid $1.3 million for a Pagani Huayra. This Italian car is associated with the Pirelli brand, although it has a line of its own. The super-fast cars took the luxury auto world by storm when they debuted in 2011.


Larry Ellison Paid $600 Million for a Piece of Hawaii

Larry Ellison is the majority owner of the Hawaiian island Lanai. This private island has been an oasis for the richest people in the world. Although it’s considered part of Hawaii today, the island was its own nation until it became part of Hawaii's monarchy in the early 1800s.

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The island has been used for raising cattle and cultivating pineapples. In the 1960s, a tourism company called Castle and Cook purchased the 98% of the island that Dole (the fruit company) owned and turned it into a luxury resort. Ellison bought the majority of the island in 2012.

Azim Premji Donated 67% of His Shares to Charity

Azim Premji is the CEO of Indian tech giant Wipro. Wipro, founded by Premji's father, started off as a producer of vegetable oil. Under Premji's leadership, the company transitioned to the technology sector and excelled in it. Rather than keeping shares of his company for himself and his family, Premji donates them to his charitable organization.

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The Azim Premji Foundation helps less fortunate children and adults get access to education, which can mean the difference between living in poverty and getting a job that sustains a family. With $21 billion in donations, Premji's foundation even opened a university.

Larry Ellison Splurged on Fighter Jets

Larry Ellison is a licensed pilot, so this purchase is another reason for him to indulge in an atypical — at least for the rest of us — hobby. Ellison bought the fighter jets from Italy and the former Soviet Union.

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These are decommissioned jets that were used by their respective governments. The U.S. government even forbade Ellison from importing the jets into the country. He already owns a private island, so he can surely find a place where it's safe to play with his expensive toys.