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The latest news on Billionaires from Business Insider

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    Some of the most successful people on Wall Street, have gotten where they are in ways you might not expect.

    Take the case of Home Depot founder, billionaire Ken Langone. In an interview with finance career site OneWire, he explains the winding road he took to finance, and it's no standard story.

    His grades in college weren't conventional:

    "Bucknell [University] used to send out a snapshot of where you stood in your first 8 weeks of the semester, and I was literally getting an F in every subject I took. I was taking a course in basic economics, and [the professor] handed out all the papers with the grades. After the class, he announced he wanted to see me. He took the exam out and threw the paper on the desk and said 'That is the worst English I have ever read in my entire life. I had to struggle to understand what you were saying, but once I figured it out, I've never had a freshman that understood the concept of supply and demand better than you.'"

    And the way he got to his first job at a bond trading firm wasn't conventional either:

    "I decided I was going to go to Wall Street and I was introduced to some people...I met a guy who knew a bond trader at Pressprich, and he got me to meet him and the guy that ran their sales department, Jack Collin. And he said 'We can't hire you, we're like everybody else in the street, trying to control our overheads.'

    So I turned around and I left, and then I went back up upstairs and asked to see Jack Collin again. I said, 'What do you pay your secretary, a 150 a week? OK, pay me a 150 a week. I'll run classes three nights a week in accounting and securities analysis for your trainees. But there's one hook- you have to give me every account you're not doing business with. In 3 and a half years I was made a partner.'"

    Ultimately Langone founded Home Depot and turned 3,000 kids that started out pushing carts in his store into multi-millionaires.

    Watch the rest of the interview below and subscribe to OneWire’s interview series here.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Boris Johnson, Michael Bloomberg

    For almost a decade Michael Bloomberg has gotten on the radio every Friday morning with John Gambling and told New Yorkers exactly whatever is on his mind, Politicker reports.

    No really, if you've ever listened, Hizzoner's style is super blunt to the point of making some people uncomfortable.

    But he's fine with it. In fact, he told Gambling this morning in one of both their final shows — Gambling is retiring and saying goodbye along with the Mayor — that being blunt is the reason why he's so rich.

    Via Politicker:

    I’ve always said to my kids, ‘You have to like what you see in the mirror and you shouldn’t worry about what other people say,” said Mr. Bloomberg, returning to a favorite topic during an appearance this morning on his weekly WOR radio show with John Gambling.

    “Yes, you have to be nice and polite and there’s a common sense and a sensitivity. You don’t insult people and that sort of thing. But you’ve gotta do what you think is right … And in the end, I’ve always believed that is a formula for success,” he continued. ”People say, ‘Oh, you know, you’re wealthy now, you have the luxury of saying things that you want to say.’ Um, how do you think I got wealthy? I really believe that.”

    So maybe start being really real with people...

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    tim geithner

    Even though Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner isn't going to one of Wall Street's powerhouse firms, he could still turn himself into a billionaire in a few years if he makes the right moves.

    This weekend private equity firm Warburg Pincus announced that Geithner would be joining the company to help it make connections, do deals, and generally become an everyday part of its operations.

    Since then, journalists like Andrew Ross Sorkin over at Dealbook have been right to point out that Geithner isn't necessarily doing the old "leave-the-public-sector-to-join-the-dark side" move with this new job.

    Warburg Pincus is no Goldman Sachs, with "tentacles" in every transaction on the face of the planet.

    It's no Blackstone either (which is more comparable as a private equity firm). Blackstone is a public company, Warburg is private. As of December 2012, Blackstone had $202 billion in assets under management, which dwarfs Warburg's $35 billion.

    But that could all change with an aggressive push in the right direction. By hiring Geithner, Warburg Pincus has shown that it wants to expand its network through his Rolodex. Totally fine.

    The firm also just did the biggest deal in its history this fall, flipping Bausch & Lomb Holdings Inc for $8.7 billion. Warburg bought it in 2007 for $4.5 billion.

    Not bad.

    So the ambition necessary to make Geithner fabulously wealthy could be there on the firm's part. And it just so happens that in private equity, there's a bit of a playbook for turning the C-level executives into billionaires. It's an IPO.

    Oaktree Capital and The Carlyle Group did it in 2012 — not the best timing but Oaktree's Howard Marks, and David M. Rubenstein and his co-founders over at Carlyle still got to be billionaires.

    KKR did it in 2010 with $55 billion under management (not too far from Warburg's $35 billion) — they had a better showing, and of course co-founders Henry Kravis and George Roberts got to join the billionaires club as well.

    The master of this play though, has to be Blackstone Group. The firm went public in 2007, and at the time it was one of the largest IPOs in the U.S. in five years.  Current CEO Steve Schwarzman got even richer than he already was — rich enough to throw lavish birthday BLOWOUTS with celebs for the rest of his life.

    And so did Schwarzman's co-founder, former public servant Pete Peterson. He made $1.8 billion off the IPO, retiring shortly after. Before that, Peterson worked in the Nixon administration as Secretary of Commerce.

    Now to do this, Geithner would have to make an extra leap or two by taking a fat stake in the company.

    But there's hope for him yet.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Chinese banks money

    China may not have the most billionaires, but it does have the youngest.

    According to a report from Wealth-X and UBS, China's 157 billionaires have an average age of 53 years old. That's nine years younger than the global average.

    China has the second-highest number of billionaires in the world after the U.S., which has 515. And China has added 10 new billionaires over the past year.

    Still, China's billionaires have come under fire recently for their wealth and power. The government recently charged one of its top billionaires, venture capitalist and human rights supporter Wang Gongquan, with "assembling a crowd to disrupt order."

    Chinese-American entrepreneur and blogger Charles Xue was arrested in August, and last year Xu Ming, once the country's eighth richest man, was arrested and charged with fraud.

    One study found that 17 percent of the billionaires on the Hurun Rich List—China's version of the Forbes list—wind up in court or prison.

    By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank

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    elon musk

    Elon Musk has three companies: Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity.

    He's a billionaire but still makes himself approachable. In fact, the soft-spoken CEO told Business Insider's Henry Blodget that his "core competency is responding to emails."

    Last week, Musk spoke at Business Insider's annual Ignition conference. The conference draws a lot of star power in its speaker line-up, from TV personality Dr. Oz to billionaire Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to Russell Simmons.

    Musk arrived alone. No PR person. No employees. No posse. Just himself. (For comparison, another speaker arrived with about ten other people.) He also arrived a few minutes early and happily chatted with Business Insider's giddy editors.

    Elon Musk was the closing keynote the second day of the conference. As his hour-long interview wrapped up, the audience began to line up, blocking him from getting off the stage.

    A lot of people would have been frustrated and bolted, or answered one question then dashed. But Musk let the crowd surround him. He stayed an extra 45 minutes to answer their questions. He even graciously accepted a piece of fan mail written by one attendee's son. 

    Here's how big a crowd Musk can draw. Thousands of people filled all chair, floor and standing space at Dublin's 10,000-person Web Summit just to hear Musk speak a few weeks ago:

    elon musk crowd dublinHere's a photo of Musk staying for almost an entire hour to answer questions after Ignition.

    elon musk

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    donald trump dmitry rybolovlev miami houseA billionaire might be anywhere at any time, riding away on his private jet. But for day-to-day purposes, 30 percent of billionaires reside in just 20 citiesMoscow is No. 3 on the list, primarily because Russia’s corrupt privatization process in the 1990s was the font of so many fortunes. But New York at No. 1, Hong Kong at No. 2, and London at No. 4 are home to so many of the super-elite for a more complicated mixture of reasons. In part, these are simply financial centers where it’s possible to get rich. But more fundamentally, these are cities where rich people like to move: English-speaking, cosmopolitan, big enough to be anonymous, and with an essentially limitless range of high-end services.

    It’s a niche that attracts mixed reviews. Soon-to-be-former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a somewhat bizarre exit interview to New York magazine in September in which he waxed enthusiastic about his fellow billionaires. After all, billionaires pay lots of taxes. “All I know is from the city’s point of view, we want these people, and why criticize them?” he asked. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?”

    In more mainstream quarters, the influx of billionaires to New York is viewed as a threat. A May article in the New York Times about luxury construction featured many quotes from people fretting that the mania for high-end units would leave the city denuded of middle-class housing stock. Who, exactly, was buying these places? Nobody knew for sure, the Times’ Charles Bagli wrote, but “it is likely that many are the rootless superrich: Russian metals barons, Latin American tycoons, Arab sheiks and Asian billionaires.”

    In truth, becoming a billionaire hot spot is an enormous opportunity—in theory. But in practice, it’s often squandered by bad policy.

    Consider luxury cars. Nobody in Germany thinks it’s bad that rich people like to buy fancy cars from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. On the contrary, the popularity of those luxury brands is one of the pillars of the German export economy. And if really rich people swoop in and start demanding more and more of the highest-end models, then so much the better. Those M’s, AMG’s, and S’s just create even more value for the car companies, their workers, and their suppliers. Nobody worries that ordinary Germans are going to be stuck taking the bus because all the nicest cars are being exported to Russia. If demand rises, you build more factories. And some factories can make Porsches for fancy people while others make Volkswagens for regular folks.

    The problem only arises if for some reason you can’t build more cars.

    We have some insight into how this works from the days of the Reagan administration, when threats of legal action against Japanese automakers led to the imposition of “voluntary export restraints” by Japanese producers. These de facto quotas on how many cars Toyota, Honda, and Nissan could sell raised prices and pushed some consumers to buy American cars. But they also led to a change in strategy by Japanese automakers. If you can only sell a handful of cars, you’d better make sure they’re expensive. So Toyota launched a luxury division, Lexus. Honda and Nissan followed suit with Acura and Infiniti. If the export quotas had never been lifted, over time these luxury brands would have grown to account for 100 percent of Japan’s bound-for-America production. This is essentially where New York, London, and other playgrounds of the rich find themselves today.

    America’s greatest export product is America itself, whether it’s apartments in Manhattan or beachfront condos in Miami.

    Unlike cars, residential buildings have to be in specific places to be valuable. And zoning codes often restrict how much you can build. Most cities in Europe and on the American coasts sharply restrict how much new supply is allowed, at times leading a frighteningly large share of it to go to things like an $88 million pied-à-terre for the daughter of a Russian billionaire.

    But the right response isn’t to freak out; it’s to take advantage of the potential bonanza. America’s greatest export product is America itself. Whether it’s apartments in Manhattan or beachfront condos in Miami and San Diego, the rich people of the world want to buy dwellings on our shores. If we allow for more building permits and denser construction, there’ll be a jobs boom exporting those homes just as Switzerland exports fancy watches or Gulfstream exports private jets. The houses will have to be filled with furniture and appliances and other manufactured goods, and when their owners come to visit, they’ll also visit our stores and restaurants. And, yes, as Bloomberg said, they’ll pay property taxes. A natural swap would be more building permits in exchange for eliminating the tax subsidies that finance so much of today’s development. Unfortunately, by rejecting a recent proposal for rezoning Midtown East, the New York City Council took a step in the opposite direction.

    Still, cities where the super-rich want houses should find ways to accommodate them. The key is to let more development happen in the in-demand, centrally located areas where the economic benefits are largest and the ecological costs the smallest, not just “transitional” neighborhoods and the exurban fringe. Take the existing stacks of apartments for rich people and replace them with taller stacks. Then watch the money roll in.

    Matthew Yglesias is Slate's business and economics correspondent. He is the author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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    Karan and Richard LeFrak at 2011 American Museum of Natural History GalaReal estate investment has long been the playground of the wealthy, with top developers becoming some of the richest people in the world. 

    Today wealth intelligence firm Wealth-X released data on the top 20 real estate moguls in New York City, ranked according to their personal net worth. 

    Richard LeFrak, chairman, CEO, and president of LeFrak Organization, leads the list with a net worth of $4.9 billion. LeFrak's family has invested in New York real estate for more than a century, but he recently expanded his portfolio to include properties in Washington, Oregon, and California. His company owns LeFrak City, a 5,000-unit apartment unit in Queens, in addition to 16 million square feet of commercial and residential property in Newport, N.J.

    Leonard Stern of Hartz Group was second with a net worth of $4.1 billion, while Stephen Ross of The Related Companies came in third with $3.6 billion. 

    Wealth-X Research uses a proprietary valuation model to assess all asset holdings, including privately and publicly held businesses and investible assets.

    See the complete list below. 

    NYC real estate moguls

    SEE ALSO: Meet The Family Dynasties That Rule New York Real Estate

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    Who wouldn't want Tina Turner to be a citizen of their country?

    She, along with other members of the world's super rich, like LVMH head Bernard Arnault (the richest man in France), have started shopping around for second citizenships. 

    It's a hot new trend called "jurisdiction shopping," according to a survey by UBS and Wealth-X published last month.

    Turner herself settled on Zurich, Switzerland. No surprise there, Switzerland, along with Singapore and Hong Kong are super popular second citizenship spots for super wealthy people looking for "friendlier" tax treatment. 

    From Wealth-X:

    Armand Arton, CEO of Arton Capital, a global financial advisory firm that provides custom-tailored financial services and Immigrant Investor Programs to UHNW individuals explains that: “More and more high net worth individuals are enquiring into immigrant investor programs due to the increased financial flexibility and investment options they can offer to them.”

    Arton deals with various governments around the world who are trying to attract these wealthy Global Citizens through programs that offer an expedited pathway to residency and citizenship – Arton says his clients seek a second residency for a variety of reasons including privileged resident status, family security, or in some cases, direct or fast tracked citizenship.

    Now, an interesting thing about this report is that these shoppers are mostly Western. China and India's newly minted wealthy are staying at home.

    Eighty-six percent of Chinese billionaires and 95 percent of Indian billionaires who have most of their business in China and India, respectively, also grew up there, according to the report.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    james packer miranda kerr

    Model Miranda Kerr split from her husband Orlando Bloom just one month ago, but the Victoria's Secret beauty has already moved on to Australian billionaire businessman, James Packer, reports PageSix.

    Packer, 46, and Kerr, 30, grew up in the same New South Wales town, Gunnedah, and Packer provided business advice to Kerr when she launched her line of Kora beauty products.

    While Kerr has seen some career turmoil lately and was recently accused of photoshopping her Instagram photos, Packer is the son of the late media mogul, Kerry Packer and  inherited control of the family company, Consolidated Press Holdings Limited. 

    BRW Australia ranked James Packer third in its May 2013 ‘Rich 200’ list with his wealth estimated at A$6.0 billion.

    James Packer Erica Packer wife"Australian weekly magazine Woman’s Day, once owned by the Packer family, is publishing claims that Packer and Kerr are in new relationships after both announced, just 45 days apart, that their marriages were over," notes PageSix.

    "Both James Packer and Erica Baxter are longtime friends of Kerr and Bloom," adds the report. "They were all pictured vacationing together with their families in Tahiti last year."

    Packer and Erica have three children, while Kerr and Bloom have a 2-year-old son, Flynn.

    Reps for both have declined to comment.

    SEE ALSO: The Internet Is Fuming After Miranda Kerr Posts Photoshopped Picture On Instagram

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    xavier niel

    The world's wealthiest men had to meet one important guideline to qualify for a new ranking of billionaires: they had to be single. 

    Wealth intelligence firm Wealth-X analyzed the assets of the wealthiest unmarried men in the world to create this list of the richest bachelors.

    Wealth-X Research uses a proprietary valuation model to assess all asset holdings, including privately and publicly held businesses and investible assets.

    Included are tech tycoons, music moguls, and even a Russian oligarch. These bachelors may not all be young, and they may not even be looking for love, but they are eligible. 

    #9 Charles Butt

    Age: 75

    Net Worth: $2.9 billion

    Home Country: USA

    Charles Butt is the CEO and Chairman of H.E. Butt Grocery, a Texas supermarket chain founded by his grandmother in 1905. Butt started working in the grocery store as a bagger when he was only eight years old. Now he owns the majority of the company, which operates 311 stores in Texas and 47 in Mexico. 

    #8 Alejandro Santo Domingo Davila

    Age: 36

    Net Worth: $3.9 billion

    Home Country: Colombia

    Alejandro Santo Domingo Davila, head of the Santo Domingo Group, inherited his wealth from his beer-magnate father, Julio Mario Santo Domingo Pumarejo. The group's portfolio includes 15.1% of SABMiller, the second-largest brewing company in the world, and Caracol, Colombia's biggest broadcasting company. The family also happens to own a private island off the coast of Colombia. 

    #7 Andreas von Bechtolsheim

    Age: 58

    Net Worth: $4.4 billion

    Home Country: Germany

    In addition to being a co-founder of Sun Microsystems in the 1980s, "Andy" was one of the first investors in Google, back when it was just a research project at Stanford. That initial $100,000 investment is now worth $2 billion in Google stock. Bechtolsheim currently serves as the chairman and chief development officer at Arista Networks. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Eike Batista

    You know what they say — if you owe the bank $1,000 the bank owns you. If you owe the bank a million dollars you own the bank.

    Now turn that million dollars into billions, and make that bank thousands of investors, at least one very powerful sovereign wealth fund, and an entire country.

    Put all that together and you have former Brazilian billionaire tycoon Eike Batista's situation.

    After losing $2 million a day last year and having a $37-billion-dollar fortune evaporate before his eyes, after the bankruptcy of his flagship oil and gas company OGX (with its sister shipbuilding company OSX likely to follow)], after the sale of many assets/controlling stakes in the companies he built, Eike Batista is still asking investors for money to rebuild his empire.

    And they are giving it to him.

    Bloomberg reports that OGX creditors have agreed to give Batista $200 million so that he can continue developing the oil fields that, in part, were the start of his woes. Last year it became clear that Batista's fields would not produce the volume of oil expected. Batista's stock plummeted 90%. Bondholders, like PIMCO, didn't get paid in October. OGX went bankrupt.

    Even before OGX was officially in the hole, Batista was asking creditors for around $250 million to keep the company afloat through April. Now he's got some of that, and he can use that money to start work at the Tubarao Martelo offshore field. It may hold as many as 108.5 million barrels of oil.

    So Batista has that cash, and he's got a little debt relief from creditors too.

    Mubadala, Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, has taken a 25% haircut on Batista's debt, taking it from $2.3 billion to around $1.6 or $1.7 billion.

    Back in the spring of 2012, the fund made a deal to provide Batista with $2 billion, the details of which are still mostly unknown.

    Meanwhile as goes Batista, so goes Brazil. The erstwhile billionaire's six companies — OGX, MPX, LLX, MMX, OSX and CCX — all held together under EBX, were once powerhouses on the Brazilian stock exchange, the Ibovespa.

    However, as of Aug. 1, the six companies have lost a combined $9.7 billion in 2013. All 300 publicly traded companies in Brazil have lost $203 billion in the same period.

    Three of Batista's companies — OGX, LLX, and MMX — have been among the 10 biggest losers in the Ibovespa Sao Paolo Stock Exchange Index.

    And MMX, an iron ore company, has contributed to the Ibovespa's most recent malaise. This week the exchange sank lower than any other in the world. Its loss was prompted by sinking shares in Petrobras, Brazil's state oil company (paging Jim Chanos) and MMX's earnings, which posted wider losses than analysts expected.

    So it isn't just Batista who's hoping a cash injection will revitalize his empire, it's all of Brazil as well.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Bill and Melinda Gates

    In 2010, a trio of the world’s wealthiest individuals set out to encourage their peers to donate at least half of their wealth to charity through a campaign called The Giving Pledge.

    Three years later, The Giving Pledge’s founders Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett have obtained the support of just 5 percent of the world’s billionaires. Reasons for the low take-up?

    International cultural disparities, aversion to the spotlight, emerging family dynasties and distaste for what has been criticized as “a PR stunt”, may all be factors at play, say experts.

    As of July 2013, 114 billionaires had signed The Giving Pledge. These individuals come primarily from the US, with 11 percent coming from nine other countries including the UK, India, Germany South Africa and Australia. High-profile names include Russian mining magnate Vladimir Potanin, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and British Virgin boss Richard Branson. Heavyweight philanthropists they may be, but 114 equates to only 5.2% of the global population of 2,170 billionaires – as estimated by the recently published UBS and Wealth-X Billionaire Census – which by most standards seems a paltry subscription rate. And taking into account all of the campaigning efforts of three of the planet’s most powerful people, it seems bafflingly low.

    The lack of signatories seems stranger still, given that the pledge does not legally or contractually oblige them to make donations. All signatories need do is pledge publicly to donate at least half of their wealth to a charity of their choice either during their lifetime or upon death. They don’t even have to write a personal “Pledge Letter” if they don’t want to (although many have).

    According to the company website, The Giving Pledge merely “encourages open conversation about philanthropy and does not involve direct appeals, pooling money or requirements to support a particular cause or organization. Pledge signatories come together throughout the year to discuss challenges, successes and failures, as well as how to be smarter about giving.”

    Three years into the campaign and The Giving Pledge does not disclose how much has been raised, donated or what its targets are. However, with combined assets of around US$504 billion, the commitments made by the current participants could amount to at least US$252 billion donated to philanthropic causes, although none are contractually obliged to do so. A representative from The Giving Pledge did not return calls for comment.

    The lack of participants could be down to the fact that, to date, the campaign has focused more on growing awareness than actively raising funds, pointed out Maya Prabhu, executive director of philanthropy services at UK private bank Coutts. “The Giving Pledge has served to elevate the profile of philanthropy in different parts of the world where philanthropy is not so openly discussed, even though it might be widely practiced,” she said.

    She added that while making a public statement about philanthropy is always positive, strictly speaking the statement in legal terms is meaningless. “It is true that pledgers are under no legal obligation to give and over a lifetime a lot can happen – indeed, they may no longer be billionaires in a few year’s time,” Prabhu commented.
    It may be for this very reason that critics have argued that the campaign is more of a publicity stunt than a serious attempt to efficiently tackle the world’s problems.

    Many high-profile ultra-wealthy individuals have refused to sign. The late Apple founder Steve Jobs did not sign the pledge and during his life would not comment why. French billionaires Arnaud Lagardère and Liliane Bettencourt were both reportedly approached and asked to join, but refused, declining to comment to local press. One philanthropy consultant, who did not want to be named, reasoned: “For some, whilst it may be their intention to give most of their wealth away, they may be concerned about making a public statement, uncomfortable with discussing their wealth and its purpose on a world stage. They may also be concerned that something could go wrong with their business, making them unable to meet the pledge.”

    Another factor is cultural differences. As the cornerstone of modern philanthropy and a constitutional republic, the US has an open attitude to speaking about giving. But this is not necessarily the case in the emerging markets. In 2010, Buffett and the Gates held a dinner in China to invite 50 billionaires to join the pledge, but they came away without a single signature. This may be explained as a culture clash, said Sonu Shivdasani, a philanthropist and founder of Six Senses Spa and Soneva Group. China’s billionaires are at a different stage in their wealth cycle and their money is frequently tied up with businesses and family dynasties, he pointed out. And many wealthy Chinese individuals may shy away from addressing social problems directly for fear of stepping on the toes of the state. He said: “It is a pity that it didn’t work out in China, I suspect that the way it was handled and cultural sensitivity might have been responsible for its failure rather than the wealthy Chinese entrepreneur’s disposition towards charity.”

    But it is not for want of generosity amongst the ultra rich. According to the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census, in the last three years, billionaires have donated a total of US$69 billion, equivalent to US$32 million per billionaire. The US remains the country with the largest number of billionaire donors, ahead of China, the UK, Russia and Canada.

    But contrary to popular opinion, most billionaires’ preferred causes are not those concerned with solving the world’s problems, but giving back to their Alma Maters. Education remains the top cause for major giving across the world’s billionaires, said Wealth-X. Notable gifts from billionaires this year include those from Michael Bloomberg, who donated US$350 million to John Hopkins University, Charlie Munger, who pledged US$110 million to the University of Michigan, and Samuel Yin, who donated US$100 million to the Tang Prize Foundation.

    Through their foundation and work on malaria cures in the third world, Bill and Melinda Gates are the poster couple for health causes. Perhaps this sits at odds with how many billionaires want to allocate their munificence.

    Advocates of The Giving Pledge insist that the main purpose of the campaign is to create a ripple effect across the world, which it has done. “By giving publically, we are able to inspire and educate others to give more of themselves,” said Jenny Santi, a Singapore-based advisor on ultra high net worth (UHNW) philanthropy, who is currently helping Academy Award winner Goldie Hawn expand her foundation to Asia. “I have had clients tell me that the reason they started their own charitable projects is that they read about what Bill Gates is doing, and were inspired to do the same.”

    The Giving Pledge has also driven some to find alternative ways to help solve the world’s problems. For example, John D. Coors, of the brewing family, this year founded One Thousand and One Voices, an investor group composed of the world’s most influential families. He plans to deploy US$300 million in private equity funds in regions in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Latin America, South East Asia and Eastern Europe. “Our model is sufficiently patient to accelerate prosperity in developing markets, addressing a major shortcoming of traditional private equity as well as impact investment funds operating today,” he said in a statement.

    And not every problem will have the same solution, pointed out Prabhu. No wonder that some individuals would prefer to give their wealth in different ways. “Different causes demand different ways of giving. Some charitable causes suit grant funding better while in some situations, social investment is the best way to give. Now is an exciting time to be a philanthropist as there are so many choices available.”

    And of course, any step towards galvanizing others to the betterment of human kind must be given the benefit of the doubt. Santi said: “If charitable projects are flawed, I think we should spend less time criticizing them and spend more time coming up with alternatives, or proactive solutions. Today, for example, it took me only three minutes to make an online donation to victims of Typhoon Yolanda. Sometimes we forget how little we have to do to make a difference.”

    SEE ALSO: 25 Billionaires Who Are Giving Away Their Fortunes

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    Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky

    Seven more billionaires, including Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky, GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons and Russian super angel Yuri Milner, just vowed to give most of their money away.

    They signed The Giving Pledge, the four-year-old brainchild of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in which the world's wealthiest individuals promise to give away half or more of their money to charity before or after they die.

    With the seven who signed on today, 128 wealthy families have made this commitment.

    The truth is, many of these wealthy individuals have already set up charitable foundations before they sign the pledge. That's true of the tech billionaires that signed the pledge this week.

    For instance, Eric Lefkofsky's wife, Liz, is the director of Lefkofsky Family Foundation. They support education, human rights, medical charities and the arts.

    Bob Parsons and his wife Renee have the Parsons Foundation and they give money to charities around education, health care and quality of life, mostly in the Southwest.

    Milner is known for investing in science. His foundation created something called The Fundamental Physics Prize where he awards up to $3 million to each scientist that wins it. In 2013, there were 9 winners and there are six nominees for 2014, with the final winners announced later this week. He also backed something called the Breakthrough Prize for the life sciences, along with Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg (another billionaire who has signed the Pledge). That prize will give six winners $3 million apiece, too.

    Still, it's not a bad thing for billionaires to publicly vow their devotion to philanthropy. Here's the letters from most of the seven billionaires who signed the pledge on Tuesday.

    In addition to the Lefkofskys, Milner and the Parsons, the other billionaires who pledged today are Hedge Fund investor Seth Klarman and his wife Beth, hotelier Richard Edwin Marriott and wife Nancy, Indonesian businessman Dato’ Sri DR Tahir and medical device businessman Hansjörg Wyss.

    SEE ALSO: These 15 Tech Billionaires Are Spending Millions To Save The World

    SEE ALSO: How 15 Tech Tycoons Spend Their Fortunes

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    jeffrey soffer elle macpherson$100M suit targets Florida billionaire in Bahamas helicopter crash that killed tax attorney

    MIAMI (AP) — A $100 million lawsuit has been filed against a Florida billionaire over a 2012 helicopter crash in the Bahamas that killed a prominent tax attorney.

    The widow of attorney Lance Valdez filed the wrongful death suit Monday in Miami federal court against real estate magnate Jeffrey Soffer. He owns the Fontainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach and is CEO of the Turnberry Associates real estate empire, and he's also married to model Elle Macpherson.

    The lawsuit contends Soffer was piloting the helicopter in November 2012 when it crashed during a landing attempt at the exclusive Baker's Bay Golf & Ocean Club on Great Guana Cay, killing his friend Valdez.

    Soffer was licensed at the time to fly fixed-wing aircraft but not helicopters, the lawsuit says. It adds he was flying the aircraft even though there was an experienced helicopter pilot on board.

    "He was recklessly flying and controlling the helicopter at the time of the helicopter crash without an up-to-date and valid helicopter pilot's license," according to the lawsuit.

    Soffer and four others survived the crash. Macpherson was not involved.

    Soffer's attorney, Bob Martinez, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the lawsuit has no merit.

    "Mr. Soffer denies all the allegations of wrongdoing contained in the complaint," the statement added. It also said Soffer was very sympathetic to the widow and the children "for their grave loss" and that he "still mourns deeply the death of his good friend Lance Valdez."

    Just before the ill-fated landing attempt, the lawsuit says that Soffer flew over a golf course "and pointed out his house and yacht." The helicopter was a few feet off the ground when it suddenly encountered wind turbulence, jerked back some 75 feet and crashed with the tail section striking first, according to the lawsuit.

    The lawsuit claims Soffer and others covered up the fact that he was at the controls so Valdez's widow, Daria Pastouhkova Gogoleva, and their three minor children would be limited to a $2 million insurance payment. Otherwise, Soffer could be held personally liable for damages.

    A still-grieving Gogoleva was pressured to sign a release stating that she would not take legal action against Soffer or anyone else aboard the helicopter, the lawsuit added. It says she was falsely told that the licensed helicopter pilot, David Pearce, was the one at the controls when it went down.

    "Despite being responsible for the loss of his friend, Soffer repeatedly lied to and intentionally deceived Daria about his involvement in the crash in an effort to persuade her to pursue an insurance recovery rather than a claim against him," the lawsuit says.


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    new york city skyline

    Think of the skylines of two of the world’s great cities; New York’s iconic skyscrapers and London’s unique architectural horizon. Now consider: who owns these trophy landmark properties? In the past it may have been governments, institutions, hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds.

    Increasingly, it is the world’s super-rich.

    Whether residential or commercial, large-scale new developments or Grade-II bricks and mortar, billionaires are raising their asset allocation to real estate – especially in safe haven cities like London and New York. According to figures from ultra high net worth (UHNW) intelligence provider Wealth-X, the world’s billionaires now have 2.6 percent of their assets in property versus 1.9 percent in the pre-credit crunch days of 2007: a massive rise of nearly 37 percent.

    “The first signs of a real estate pick up almost anywhere are seen in demand for trophy properties from ultra high net worth individuals,” said Yolande Barnes, director of residential research at Savills, the international real estate agency.

    Two common factors link this renewed appetite. Usually these properties are good value for money and likely to yield an attractive return. Frequently properties are picked for their ability to act as a safe wealth haven, said David Friedman, president of Wealth-X.

    “In the wake of the recession we are seeing a growing trend of single family offices investing directly into undervalued commercial or residential real estate for yield, combined with the larger macro picture that they are still in retreat-mode, turning to asset classes that they can understand versus complex structured products,” Friedman commented.

    The total real estate holdings of the world’s billionaires is estimated at US$169 billion, or an average of US$78 million per billionaire, according to Wealth-X data. Billionaires own an average of four homes with each one worth nearly US$20 million.

    London in particular holds perennial cachet with the world’s ultra wealthy, say agents, and its skyline is becoming crowded by buildings backed by rich foreigners. For the first time in a decade, the Duke of Westminster is no longer the capital’s biggest property owner, according to a survey conducted by property magazine the Estates Gazette. The sixth-generation Duke has assets of US$10.7 billion, of which US$6 billion or 56 percent is made up of his stake in Grosvenor Estates, according to Wealth-X. This comprises property in Mayfair and Belgravia and the Liverpool One Shopping Centre. He was, this year, surpassed by China’s Wang Jianlin of the Dalian Wanda Group. Although worth slightly less at US$10.2 billion, Wang has over 97 percent of his assets invested in his business. This year he paid US$1.1 billion to acquire the One Nine Elms project in Wandsworth, part of the city’s South Bank regeneration campaign. Wang plans to create a mixed-use iconic development with a 62-story luxury five-star hotel as well as 436 private homes.

    Another top London property magnate is Hong Kong-based Henry Cheng Kar-Shun, chairman of New World Development, and his family. Last June Cheng signed a deal to regenerate a huge area surrounding the O2 in London, and invested in a luxury Knightsbridge development. Like Wang he is very illiquid. The vast majority – 85 percent – of his US$3.6-billion fortune is invested in his business. Joseph Lau, another Hong Konger with US$7.3 billion in assets according to Wealth-X, runs Chinese Estates Group. Two years ago, he bought US investment bank Goldman Sach’s London headquarters, for £280 million.

    “The market in London is still very hot for large-scale residential and commercial investment,” said Charlie Ellingworth, of London buying agent Property Vision. He said that supply is tight on the commercial side and pointed to two recent retail purchases in Bond Street at just over two percent yields, both bought by Chinese trophy-hunters. Price was not an issue. “They were keen to make their mark by buying the best of the best in London retail space, even though it was extremely expensive.”

    Residential supply is more plentiful in London with dozens of new developments coming up over the next year or two, said Ellingworth. “These vary from the huge – like the Battersea Power Station – to former office blocks been converted all over London and will make prime targets for yield-hungry billionaires property bulls.”

    Meanwhile in New York, developer and landlord Richard LeFrak is officially the city’s biggest real estate mogul, with an estimated personal fortune of US$4.9 billion, according to Wealth-X. He owns the 5,000-unit apartment complex LeFrak City in Queens and more than 16 million square feet of commercial, residential, and retail properties in Newport, New Jersey. Another major player is Leonard Stern, chairman and CEO of privately-owned Hartz Group, has an estimated net worth of US$4.1 billion. The company currently owns more than 38 million square feet of commercial and residential property in New York, New Jersey and Chicago. Billionaires Sheldon Solow, Donald Trump and Steven Roth are also all behind trophy real estate development in the city.

    Harry Macklowe – the New York-based ultra wealthy developer behind Metropolitan Tower, Worldwide Plaza, the General Motors Building and the flagship Apple Store in Fifth Avenue – last month unveiled his new project in conjunction with the CIM Group. The 96-story 432 Park Avenue will be the tallest residential building in the Western hemisphere, and is designed by world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly. Although the development will not be complete until 2015, half of the 104 units are under contract, totaling US$1 billion. The ten penthouses are priced from US$72.5 million. One has already sold.

    Joseph Aquino of Douglas Ellison in New York said that when it comes to the Big Apple, developers of trophy properties tend to be locals, but the buyer demographic is changing. “We see the same local players developing, but what is coming down the pipe to New York is investment from China. It is a matter of time before we see the fruits of their labour.”

    Time will tell whether this craze for trophies will be a passing fad amongst the world’s billionaires. Challenges abound, like the UK’s new capital gains tax rules. Liam Bailey, head of Knight Frank Global Research, said that he doesn’t expect the removal of the CGT exemption for non-UK residents to affect demand at this level of wealth. “Tax is not the primary driver for the majority of international buyers of residential property in London,” said Bailey.

    New York also faces hurdles. Aquino added that building very high towers has plenty of restrictions. “You almost need an area to be rezoned to get higher towers since assemblages are fewer.”

    Barnes at Savills believes we will see what she calls “the Champagne Tower affect”. She said: “UHNW buying has begun to slow down, but what started in the centre at the very top is now flowing down the market and outward. This bodes well for the prime real estate markets in the world’s major cities.”

    SEE ALSO: 11 Ridiculous Gifts For The Millionaires Who Has Everything

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    Your first job usually won't be your dream job. Nonetheless, you never forget it. It introduces you to the working world, teaches you how to work hard for your money, and often gives you an idea of what you do and don't want from your career.

    From washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant to flipping hamburgers at McDonald's, here's what seven billionaires did in their first jobs:

    Jeff Bezos worked behind the grill at McDonald's.

    As a teenager, Bezos started working at McDonald's during the summer. His dad, Mike, had also worked at McDonald's in the past.

    Author Cody Teets interviewed Bezos in her book, "Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers That Began at McDonald's," about his experience. He said: "I was a grill man and never worked the cash registers. The most challenging thing was keeping everything going at the right pace during a rush. The manager at my McDonald's was excellent. He had a lot of teenagers working for him, and he kept us focused even while we had fun."

    jeff bezos

    Michael Dell washed dishes at a Chinese restaurant.

    The tech billionaire got his start in the restaurant business. At the age of 12, Dell worked at a Chinese restaurant washing dishes. He would later be a water boy and assistant maitre d’ at the same place. After he left the Chinese restaurant, Dell worked at a Mexican restaurant.

    Michael Dell

    Oprah Winfrey was a grocery clerk.

    While on a full scholarship at Tennessee University, the media mogul worked at a grocery store next to her father's barber shop.

    oprah winfrey

    Michael Bloomberg was a parking attendant.

    Bloomberg worked as a parking lot attendant at Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities while getting his college degree.

    michael bloomberg mayor

    Financier Charles Schwab picked and sold walnuts.

    Schwab took the walnuts he found in the woods and sold them in the market. He priced them at $5 for a 100-pound sack. He would later raise chickens and sell eggs at the market. At the age of 14, Schwab got a job as a caddie at a golf course.

    Charles Schwab

    Warren Buffett delivered newspapers.

    Buffett started delivering newspapers on his bicycle at the age of 13. During high school, he moved on to his pinball machine business.

    Warren Buffett newspaper toss

    T. Boone Pickens also had a paper route.

    Pickens worked his first paper route at the age of 12 and was paid a penny a paper per day. Within five years, his route grew from 28 to 156 papers and Pickens had saved $200.

    T. Boone Pickens

    SEE ALSO: What Extremely Successful People Were Doing At Age 25

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    warren buffett

    Many familiar faces make an appearance on Wealth-X's list of the billionaires who made the most money this year. 

    Businessmen like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who have dominated wealth rankings for years, continued to add billions of dollars to their already sizable fortunes. 

    Here's the full list, ranked by billions made from January 1 to December 11, 2013: 

    10. Carl Icahn made $7.2 billion

    The corporate raider had a big year after bets on Netflix and Herbalife yielded Icahn Capital Management $800 million and $500 million profits, respectively. He tweeted his thanks to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Kevin Spacey, star of the streaming service's hit show, "House of Cards." 

    9. Lui Chee Woo made $8.3 billion

    The founder of Galaxy Entertainment Group became Asia's second-richest man in 2013 as gambling revenue grew at a record pace in Macau. Lui is looking to expand his flagship casino in the city's Cotai area, which is known by many as the Asian version of the Las Vegas Strip. 

    8. Larry Page made $9.3 billion

    Google's co-founder and CEO made $3 billion in 24 hours when Google stocks hit an all-time high in October, breaking $1,000 for the first time. Android became the world's most popular operating system, running on 43% of the globe's smartphones.

    7. Sergey Brin made $9.3 billion

    Brin, Google co-founder and head of special projects with Google X, made $2.9 billion in the October stock surge. As of December 11, Brin is worth an estimated $30 billion, a 4.8% percent increase over the year. 

    6. Masayoshi Son made $10.3 billion

    The founder of Softbank, Asia's top Internet and telecommunications corporation, lost $70 billion in the dotcom crash, but he's surging back in a big way. The purchase of Sprint and a large investment in Finnish game-maker Supercell are highlights in a year that saw Son's personal net worth more than double, growing from $8.8 billion to $19.1 billion. 

    5. Mark Zuckerberg made $10.5 billion

    Facebook stock hit an all-time high in October, and revenue continues to grow despite questions about the longevity of the product. 

    4. Jeff Bezos made $11.3 billion

    The founder and CEO of Amazon, which made $17.1 billion in net sales in the third quarter, raised some eyebrows when he bought the Washington Post for $250 million this summer.

    3. Sheldon Adelson made $11.4 billion

    According to Wealth-X, the casino mogul's personal net worth grew to an estimated $35.3 billion this year thanks to profits from his gambling properties in Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore. 

    2. Bill Gates made $11.5 billion

    The world's wealthiest man ended the year with a personal net worth of $72.6 billion, up nearly 19% from $61.1 billion in 2012. 

    1. Warren Buffett made $12.7 billion

    Berkshire Hathaway's CEO personally made about $37 million a day in 2013, a year that saw the company's acquisition of Heinz  and Nevada's NV Energy. 

    SEE ALSO: Meet The World's Wealthiest Bachelors

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    ralph lauren car 2Wealth tends to create more wealth, but a rich background is not the only way to the top. Some of the world's wealthiest people started out dirt poor.

    All from humble beginnings, these 15 people not only climbed to the top of their industries but also became some of the richest people in the world.

    Although the rich do get richer, these rags-to-riches stories remind us that through determination, grit, and a bit of luck anyone can overcome their circumstances and achieve extraordinary success.

    Kenny Troutt, the founder of Excel Communications, paid his way through college by selling life insurance.

    Net worth:$1.7 billion (as of Sept. 2013)

    Troutt grew up with a bartender dad and paid for his own tuition at Southern Illinois University by selling life insurance. He made most of his money from phone company Excel Communications, which he founded in 1988 and took public in 1996. Two years later, Troutt merged his company with Teleglobe in a $3.5 billion deal.

    He's now retired and invests heavily in racehorses.

    Starbucks' Howard Schultz grew up in a housing complex for the poor.

    Net worth:$2 billion (as of Sept. 2013)

    In an interview with British tabloid Mirror, Schultz says: "Growing up I always felt like I was living on the other side of the tracks. I knew the people on the other side had more resources, more money, happier families. And for some reason, I don’t know why or how, I wanted to climb over that fence and achieve something beyond what people were saying was possible. I may have a suit and tie on now but I know where I’m from and I know what it’s like."

    Schultz ended up winning a football scholarship to the University of Northern Michigan and went to work for Xerox after graduation. Shortly after, he took over a coffee shop called Starbucks, which at the time had only 60 shops. Schultz became the company's CEO in 1987 and grew the coffee chain to more than 16,000 outlets worldwide.

    Investor Ken Langone's parents worked as a plumber and cafeteria worker.

    Net worth:$2.1 billion (as of Sept. 2013)

    To help pay for Langone's school at Bucknell University, he worked odd jobs and his parents mortgaged their home.

    In 1968, Langone worked with Ross Perot to take Electronic Data Systems (HP) public. Just two years later, he partnered with Bernard Marcus to start Home Depot, which also went public in 1981.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Mean Girls

    This week, while we were all prepping to ring in the New Year, Buzzfeed published a gruff e-mail exchange between late-hedge fund manager Bob Wilson, and Bill Gates.

    Gates wanted Wilson to join his 'Giving Pledge,' — something Wilson saw more as a social club for the super rich trying to feel good about themselves than an actual useful way to give back.

    And since Wilson  knew he didn't need Gates' pledge to give away almost $500 million, he saw the invite as a Regina George move to get him over to Gates' lunch table.

    This is how it's done in billionaire land:

    Gates opens his initial letter with a slight name drop — "I’m writing to let you know about an idea we’re calling the “Giving Pledge” that came out of a number of conversations that Melinda and Warren and I have had with a number of people over the past year."

    And then Gates gets to the real point of the pledge, creating a club for like minded givers with events, etc. — "The key benefit of your getting involved in the pledge would be having people learn more from your example both in your pledge letter and your participation in the yearly events."

    In short: On Fridays we wear pink, and it's really fun.

    Now in life, Wilson was not big shaking hands and kissing babies. He was intimidating and direct, demanding and exacting. His curt responses to Gates, however, say as much about Gates and the state of charity among the super rich as they do about Wilson.

    From Wilson's letter:

    Your “Giving Pledge” has a loophole that renders it practically worthless, namely permitting pledges to simply name charities in their wills. I have found that most billionaires or near billionaires hate giving large sums of money away while alive and instead set up family-controlled foundations to do it for them after death. And these foundations become, more often than not, bureaucracy-ridden sluggards. These rich are delighted to toss off a few million a year in order to remain socially acceptable. But that’s it.

    Wilson also said he wouldn't have any "fun" with these people anyway. These are the people that buy into what Peter Buffett (Warren's son) called "The Charitable Industrial Complex," in a New York Times column last year.

    "Philanthropy," Buffett wrote, "has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups."

    Unfortunately, he argues that these groups exist more to allow the rich to "sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over."

    To Buffett, the family controlled foundations and groups Wilson complained about lack real innovation. They throw money at systems that hurt people, instead of working to change systemic poverty and violence at its root.

    This isn't to say it's not great to shake hands and kiss babies and show your face at a 'Giving Pledge' annual cook-out or something, if that's your thing, but it wasn't Wilson's. And to him, the schmoozing lacked substance. He didn't need anyone's help to give away almost the entirety of his $800 million fortune anyway.

    Why should he have to wear pink on Fridays?

    So he politely declined Gates' offer to sit at the 'Giving Pledge' table.

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    Porsche Design Tower Miami Exterior

    It's no secret that Miami has long been an epicenter of luxury living for celebrities and billionaires. Luxury condo developments are springing up all over the area, and the housing recovery is going strong throughout the state. 

    The 60-story Porsche Design Tower is no exception, and now it's attracting billionaires at rapid speed. 

    Though it won't be ready for move-in until 2016, 22 billionaires (2% of the world's total) have purchased units there so far, according to the Atlantic Cities. And they're going fast — 80% of the 132 units are already under contract, representing a whopping $624 million in sales. 

    Like many of the other luxury condo developments in Miami-Dade County, the Porsche Design Tower has some crazy amenities, including a movie theatre, spa, and plunge pools on almost every balcony.

    The tower's most distinctive feature, however, is clear from its name. Three car elevators will bring billionaires and their luxury vehicles straight to the door of their condo, allowing them to park their cars in a "sky garage" connected to each unit.

    The building is a collaboration between South Florida-based Dezer Development and Germany's Porsche Design Group, whose $214 million loan is the largest that's been approved for a major construction project in the Southeast since the recession. In fact, it's nearly 30% larger than the previous largest post-recession construction loan. 

    The developers provided us with some renderings of the project. 

    The tower will be 60 stories tall, rising 650 feet on the shorefront of Sunny Isles Beach.

    Forget valet — this tower has a one-of-a-kind car lift system.

    Residents can drive straight into the lift, without even having to worry about interaction in the lobby.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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