Monday, March 29, 2010

Playgrounds of the Ultra-Rich

Stressful times typically call for big vacations, but the tough economic climate has forced some families to find enjoyment closer to home this year. The same isn't true for the world's billionaires. Although some have seen their net worth shrink, many continue to visit their personal getaways to escape from their high-profile lives.
The location of these luxury destinations is a matter of personal taste.
In Depth: Billionaire Playgrounds 2010
Talk about luxury. Oprah has both a 60-acre Maui getaway and a 42-acre estate in Montecito, Calif., that she calls "Promised Land." Yet when she wants crystal-clear Caribbean water and perfect palm trees, she returns to her playground on Antigua, where Eric Clapton and Giorgio Armani are among her famous neighbors. Much like George Clooney's villa on Lake Como, Oprah's vacation home is featured in many of the boat tours that run along the beautiful coastline.

Bill Gates
West Greenland
Since officially retiring from Microsoft in June 2008, Bill Gates has often traveled for work dedicated to the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. When he needs a break from the African heat — where the foundation does most of its work — he's been known to hop in a helicopter to Apussuit Adventure Camp, a remote skiing resort 15 miles outside Maniitsoq, West Greenland. This resort has no ski lifts and, more importantly, no other people.

Ty Warner
Ty Warner Penthouse at the Four Seasons New York
Ty Warner earned his fortune as the founder and sole owner of Ty Inc., manufacturer of Beanie Babies. With this money, he purchased several of the world's favorite resort playgrounds, including San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito and Las Ventanas al Paraiso Resort in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. He also owns the Four Seasons New York, where a 4,300-square-foot namesake penthouse suite offers a 25-foot ceiling, a 360-degree view of Manhattan and virtually every amenity known to hoteliers

Paul Allen
Annual operating costs for a mega-yacht are said to run 10 percent of the ship's initial cost. For Paul Allen's 416-foot yacht Octopus, that's $20 million. At least the Microsoft cofounder gets his money's worth. This floating five-star hotel features a pool, a basketball court, a movie theater, two helicopters, a 10-person submarine, a jet-ski dock and a 60-person crew.

Richard Branson
Necker Island

This 74-acre private getaway near St. Thomas is owned by the Virgin billionaire. Surrounded by turquoise waters, the island is home to 101 flamingos and houses both a watersports crew that teaches guests how to kitesurf, snorkel and kayak and a personal chef. Most visitors to this exclusive paradise rent out the entire island, which can accommodate parties of up to 28 guests, and famous patrons have included Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Oprah.