Here’s a simple fact: Everyone wants and needs money. It’s why we work and carry on with our daily routines, putting in those long hours at the office and dealing with things we frankly wouldn't deal with otherwise. It’s a means to acquire what we need, from food to entertainment. Sometimes, though, money makes you do crazy things. People in desperate need of a few bucks might go to strange extremes to make ends meet. We bear witness to this, in its most extreme form, with the bizarre, shameless behaviours evident on reality TV shows, when people voluntarily put themselves in awkward and difficult positions in order to earn some cash.
We're less familiar, however, with the particular actions and motivations of the world’s richest. Apparently, people who possess endless funds have some unconventional, original ideas and strange behaviours that prove to be both baffling and entertaining. After all, when you have all the money in the world, nothing can stop you from turning your dreams –as weird and extravagant as they might be – into reality. Here’s a list of our favorite eccentric millionaires and billionaires who might be just a little out of touch with reality.
14 Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, has played a significant role in the development of e-commerce. With a net worth of $27.6 billion, Bezos specialises in technology, computer science and electrical engineering.
One of Bezos' notable quirks is his eccentric fascination with space travel. He's taken his passion so far as to create Blue Origin, a company which focuses on developing human spaceflight. Other notable accomplishments are his recovery of Apollo 11’s engines at the bottom of the Atlantic, with the help of ocean explorers. Bezos has also provided $42 million in funding to help the Long Now Foundation build the "Clock of the Long Now", a clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years.
13 Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hasn't let fame and fortune change his habits. Quiet and reserved, living at a modest (but of course, luxurious) home, dressing like a college freshman and just being all-round nerdy and somewhat awkward, Zuckerberg carries on with his life, showing us how billionaires are still simple, normal people – just with a lot of money.
Why is he on our list of eccentrics, then? Because of this simple Facebook post in May of 2011: “I just killed a pig and a goat”. While we could just leave it at that and carry on, we’ll indulge our readers with the details. Zuckerberg claimed to be “basically a vegetarian”, stating that he wouldn't eat meat unless he killed the animal with his own two hands. He’s reportedly ceased his carniverous and murderous ways since 2012.
12 Graham Pendrill
The weirdest behaviours are sometimes the most generous. Graham Pendrill, a 57 year old millionaire antiques dealer, donated all his money to charity. That’s eccentric enough to make the list, but it doesn’t end there: Pendrill moved to Kenya to live in a mud hut after helping the Masai Mara tribe solve inter-tribal disputes. He’s left his suit behind and now dons a robe and sandals as the only white man to ever be initiated into the tribe, even receiving the title of the “Brave One”.
11 Leona Helmsley
"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes". That quote alone should tell you enough about this over-the-top billionaire hotelier...
Nicknamed the “Queen of Mean”, Leona Helmsley was damn good at her job as a real estate entrepreneur, despite her less-than-friendly professional demeanour. What she wasn’t too good at was being a model citizen, as she was convicted of federal income tax evasion and served 19 months in jail followed by 2 months of house arrest. Her family probably didn’t visit her much, as she had essentially cut ties with them, leaving a massive sum of $12 million to her tiny Maltese, named Trouble. The poor pooch only got $2 million of it, though.
10 Salvatore “Sam” Cerreto
A property tycoon, 71–year old millionaire Salvatore “Sam” Cerreto makes this list for perhaps the most bizarre behaviour we've ever heard of from someone rich: public defecation. That’s right, something you would attribute to a drunk on the street or to a homeless man is what good ol’ Sam did for 4 years on the doorway of restaurants in a neighborhood in Sydney, Australia.
He was finally caught when one of the restaurant owners decided to install CCTV to catch the defecator. Nobody knows why someone who probably has multiple majestic bathrooms in their mansion would do such a thing, but hey, to each their own...
9 Robert Durst
You really can get away with murder when you have the money. Robert Durst, the son of real estate mogul Seymour Durst, did just that. He was the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife in 1982. With her body never found, the case went cold. It was reopened in 2000, when family friend Susan Berman reportedly had some info regarding the disappearance of Durst’s wife.
Berman was eventually found dead, shot in the head, and the case went cold once again. As if those murders weren't enough, the body of Durst’s elderly neighbor was found chopped up floating in a river. Durst was eventually arrested when he was caught stealing a chicken sandwich and a Band-Aid at a supermarket, even though he had over $37 000 in cash on his person... He was acquitted of murder and spent a short stint in prison.
8 Nicolas Berggruen
Another wealthy person who makes our list because of his generosity, Nicolas Berggruen, a billionaire philanthropist and investor, sold all of his material possessions - even his home - and left his fortune to charities. Why? Because he lost all interest in possessing things.
Nicknamed the “Homeless Billionaire”, Berggruen spends his days travelling the world and staying in hotels. We’re not saying he got rid of every single little thing, but not having a bed to call your own or a place to call your home is very peculiar behaviour indeed. That’s what happens, it seems, when our possessions become a burden instead of a source of pleasure.
7 Jocelyn Wildenstein
This Swiss socialite makes our list because of her fascination with plastic surgery. Married to art heir billionaire Alec Wildenstein, Jocelyn wanted to please her man by spending millions of dollars on plastic surgery. We could sort of understand if she wanted to do so to become some ridiculously disproportioned Barbie Doll, but she instead transformed her features into those of a big cat...
Apparently cat features weren’t his thing, as Jocelyn caught her husband cheating with another woman in their bed. She received her vast fortune through a divorce settlement – $2.5 billion with an additional $100 million per year for 13 years. The most comically ironic thing about the settlement? The judge ruled that she couldn’t use the money for any other plastic surgeries.
6 Ingvar Kamprad
Frugality. That’s the name of the game for IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. We can understand that people enjoy saving money, but not to the extent of this billionaire’s habits. Living like a commoner, Kamprad drives a 1993 Volvo, uses public transportation, flies only in economy class, recycles tea bags, and steals salt and pepper packets from restaurants.
His home is very modest, looking like any other in a suburban neighborhood. It’s obviously furnished with IKEA products he assembled personally. While his supposed ties to Fascism when he was younger could have landed him on this list, it’s his extreme cheapness that’s really the most eccentric aspect of this multi-billionaire.
5 Peter Thiel
Co-founder of PayPal and investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel’s personal wealth is estimated to be at $2.2 billion. What puts this billionaire on our list is his technologically philanthropic ways: through his Thiel Foundation, he invests money in bizarre yet revolutionary technologies such as developing artificial intelligence, working on human immortality and the construction of floating cities. The long term goal? “To build machines that exceed human intelligence”.
Apparently Thiel has been sent back from the future to kill John Connor. Jokes aside, this type of research can seriously impact all of our lives, so kudos to Mr. Thiel for his ambitious projects and efforts.
4 Robert Klark Graham
An optometrist who became a millionaire for inventing shatter-proof plastic eyeglass lenses, Robert Klark Graham makes this list because of his eccentric and controversial beliefs about creating a master race. He opened a sperm bank for geniuses that was intended to only accept donations from Nobel Prize laureates. The problem (besides any potential ethical dilemmas) was that Nobel Prize recipients were usually old and their material wasn't very viable.
While 217 children were born through this program, the bank closed soon after Graham’s death. Bottom line: there’s something undeniably eccentric about opening a sperm bank that housed the world’s most intelligent little swimmers.
3 Howard Hughes
One of the wealthiest people in the world during his time, Howard Hughes dipped his hand in many a successful business venture, most notably as an aviator and a filmmaker. He produced big budget films that had both financial and critical success. He was also a Hollywood playboy known for bedding famous actresses.
In addition to movies, he was an influential aviator, setting multiple world records. Unfortunately, he crashed one of his experimental planes, marking the start of Hughes’ downfall. He became a recluse, shutting himself in his screening rooms and hotel rooms, never showering or taking care of himself, eating very little and peeing in bottles. He suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and from chronic pain from the crippling accident. He was eventually found dead in 1976; he was so unrecognizable, the police needed his fingerprints to identify the body.
2 Clive Palmer
Known for his strange and unusual ideas, Clive Palmer, Australian businessman and owner of Mineralogy, makes our list because of... dinosaurs.
Palmer put millions of dollars into research on cloning dinosaurs, attempting to create a real life Jurassic Park. Once that failed, he instead commissioned hundreds of animatronic dinosaurs for his hotel and golfing resort instead. Eccentric enough? Not yet, as his next endeavour involves creating a replica of the Titanic, which is scheduled to sail in 2016. Someone should tell Palmer that neither of those movies turned out well for the guests…
1 Richard Branson
If ever there was an eccentric billionaire, it’s Richard Branson. A Jack-of-all-Trades when it comes to his business ventures, the founder of Virgin owns and operates more than 360 different companies, from airlines, cell phone providers and record companies to soda pops, condoms and amusement parks. He’s an international businessman who never stops partying and lives life to its fullest.
Always looking to break new ground, Branson tops our list because of Virgin Galactic: for a not-so-small sum of $200,000, he plans to allow travellers to visit space. His goal is to create a space resort, building hotels in the final frontier. With the astronomical price tag for these visits, only the world’s wealthiest can afford it. Conclusion? Richard Branson, pretty much the Most Interesting Man in the World, is an eccentric billionaire who markets his products to… other eccentric millionaires! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why he tops our list.