Being part of the global billionaire class is beyond the imagination of most people. At the threshold of US$1 billion (A$1.3 billion), a 5 per cent return would yield an annual interest payment of $50 million (A$65 million) without ever touching the principal.
But how billionaires, from those in the single digits to near the top, invest shows a range of options for the very wealthiest in the world. One thing they all have in common is a large amount of money in cash or equivalently liquid securities.
Here is a look at how 10 billionaires have made and invested their money, according to public filings gathered by the financial research firm Wealth-X.
Chairman of LVMH. Estimated net worth: A$49.6 billion
Bernard Arnault, 67, is the richest man in France. Trained as a civil engineer, he got his start in business from his father, who had a successful construction company. He shifted the focus of his father's company to real estate and then turned his eye to luxury goods. Through his Groupe Arnault, the silver-haired Parisian sits at the helm of the luxury goods companies Christian Dior and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. He is also a major art collector, having acquired works by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
His vast wealth sits predominantly in companies he controls. He has $45.3 billion held among Christian Dior, LVMH and Carrefour, a French retail chain. The next largest distribution is in cash at $3.7 billion; this is money from salaries, dividends and holdings that give him liquidity when he needs it. Then come the homes. He has a mansion in Paris worth $71 million and a home in the Bahamas worth $39 million, as well as yachts and art. His wealth shows how a single concentrated position in a company can increase your worth tremendously.
Steven A. Ballmer
Former chief executive of Microsoft. Estimated net worth: A40.1$ billion
Steven A. Ballmer, 60, scored a perfect 800 on the mathematics portion of the SAT and punched his ticket from an elite private school in Detroit to Harvard University. In his sophomore year, he lived in the same dorm as Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft. In 1980, he dropped out of Stanford University's business school to start working for Gates. He was paid $65,000 but given a stake in the nascent company. He rose to become chief executive in 2000 – a post he held for nearly 14 years. Shortly after stepping down, he bought the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for a record $2.6 billion. The team had been mired in controversy with a previous owner, Donald Sterling.
Even though Ballmer left Microsoft, the vast bulk of his wealth remains in company stock – $27.8 billion. He has $9.5 billion more in cash. It makes his stake in the Clippers seems paltry. He also has $586 million in Twitter shares. He owns a $18.2 million home in Huntsville, Washington, and properties on Whidbey Island worth about $5.2 million.
Deputy chairwoman of Altana. Estimated net worth: A$26.6 billion
Susanne Klatten, 54, the richest woman in Germany, can trace the source of her wealth to "the ultimate driving machine," BMW. Her grandfather founded an industrial conglomerate that owned the German automotive company – and had a stake in its more staid rival, Daimler-Benz. The company also owned the chemical giant Altana. Her father, Herbert Quandt, took over the family businesses when his father died in 1954. When he died in 1982, Klatten received stakes in BMW and Altana, of which she is now the sole owner. As her father was credited with saving BMW from bankruptcy, she is credited with making Altana a top company in Germany. She is also chairwoman of the SGL Group, which produces graphite and carbon-fiber products.
Her wealth is tied up in her companies, with over half, or $12.1 billion, in the BMW Group. An additional 16 per cent is in Altana, and 1 per cent is in the SGL Group. She has 22.5 per cent in cash. She has a family office that creates privacy around the breakdown of her wealth.
Chairman of Wipro. Estimated net worth: A$13 billion
Azim Premji, 71, was born into the family that started Western India Vegetable Products, which produced hydrogenated oils. When Premji was at Stanford University, his father, who started the company, died, and he left college to take it over. At 23, he became chief executive. He diversified the Mumbai-based company's offerings into soap and baby care products. In 1981, he ventured into information technology. The company boomed through the 1980s and '90s, and in 2000 the renamed Wipro went public in New York. In 2009, Premji handed over the day-to-day running of the company. He devotes time to philanthropy, having given half his Wipro shares to a charity that supports education and health causes in India.
His wealth appears to remain fairly concentrated, with 64 per cent of it in Wipro shares. An additional 13 per cent is in a related company, Wipro Enterprises, and 20 per cent is shielded by his family office. Public records show that he has a $20 million stake in JM Financial (about 0.2 per cent of his wealth), $234 million in cash and $1.3 million in property in Mumbai. Given his total worth, his properties and holdings are probably much greater, but he has structured his wealth to protect his privacy.
Carlos Alberto Sicupira
Director of 3G Capital. Estimated net worth: A$11.2 billion
Carlos Alberto Sicupira, who turns 69 this year, hails from São Paulo, Brazil, which ranks just behind New York City (where he keeps a residence) for the most billionaires in the Americas. He began his career in finance at Banco de Investimentos Garantia. He later served as chief executive of Lojas Americanas, a Brazilian shopping chain. He is a founder of 3G Capital, a private equity firm that has become known in recent years for partnering with Warren E. Buffett, the second-wealthiest man in the world, on deals like the acquisition of Heinz in 2013 and, two years later, its merger with Kraft.
Much of Sicupira's wealth rests in a series of deals 3G did with breweries starting in 1999. He has a $7.5 billion stake in the combined Anheuser-Busch InBev, which accounts for nearly 67 per cent of his wealth. He has nearly $1.3 billion more in 3G itself. He still holds a $286 million stake in Lojas Americanas, where he remains chairman. He has an additional $2.08 billion in cash and a $3.2 million apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Owner of the Arison Group. Estimated net worth: A$7.3 billion
Shari Arison, 59, was born in New York but splits her time now between Tel Aviv and Miami. Her father, Ted Arison, started Carnival Cruise Line in 1972. In 1990, he moved back to Tel Aviv, where he was born, and established Arison Investments. It later acquired Bank Hapoalim, Israel's largest bank, and renamed itself the Arison Group. It has investments in finance, real estate, infrastructure, renewable energy and water. When her father died in 1999, Shari Arison inherited 35 per cent of his wealth. (She has a brother, Micky, who owns the Miami Heat basketball team.) As owner of the Arison Group and a philanthropist, she promotes good deeds. The investment group's motto is "Doing good is good for business," and through her charity she has sponsored Good Deeds Day, which encourages people to volunteer.
Shari Arison's wealth is divided fairly evenly among different investments. She owns $2.08 billion of stock in Carnival Cruise Line, $2.08 billion of stock in Bank Hapoalim, $1.4 billion in the Arison Group itself and holds $1.3 billion in cash. She has a stake in an Israeli housing and infrastructure company and homes in the Bal Harbour section of Miami and in Tel Aviv.
Executive chairman of Shenzhou International Group Holdings. Estimated net worth: A$5.6 billion
Ever worn Nike, Adidas, Puma or Uniqlo? Those items may have come from one of Ma Jianrong's factories. His company is the leading textile manufacturer in China. Ma, 52, began working in the textile industry as a teenager and later earned a master's degree from Zhejiang University of Technology. His father, Ma Baoxing, was chairman of the weaving company that became Shenzhou International Group Holdings. In the late 1990s, the younger Ma took over the company and increased its revenue and net profit by 23 times in seven years. A member of the Chinese Communist Party, he is an official in the Zhejiang Provincial People's Congress.
The exact composition of his wealth is hard to determine. He seems to have about $443 million in cash, with the rest in Shenzhou International Group Holdings.
Executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals. Estimated net worth: A$2.7 billion
Patrice Motsepe, 55, was born in Johannesburg and began his career as a lawyer with American firms in South Africa. He attended university and law school during the apartheid era and practiced law for six years, becoming the first black partner in a South African law firm. In 1994, after Nelson Mandela became the country's first black president, Motsepe quit law to start Future Mining, a mining services company. With that as his start, he began acquiring mines and other mining companies. By 2004, the accumulated entities became African Rainbow Minerals. He owns the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club, a soccer team in South Africa's premier league, and last year he started a private equity firm and financial services company.
His wealth, which places him among South Africa's richest people, is well diversified. The largest portion of his wealth, 36 per cent, is in cash and its equivalents. He has nearly 30 per cent in Africa Rainbow Minerals, and a similar amount in Sanlam, a financial services firm of which he is deputy chairman. Some 5 per cent of his wealth is in the Harmony Gold Mining Co. Two homes are worth $9 million, or one-third of 1 per cent of his wealth.
Co-founder of the Panda Restaurant Group. Estimated net worth: A$1.9 billion
In search of quick Chinese food? Panda Express, with its 1900 locations around the United States, is there to serve some up. Peggy Cherng, 69, founded the chain with her husband, Andrew. When the restaurant began expanding from Glendale, California, into the full-fledged chain it is today, she used her science background to make the business tech-savvy early on and then applied her knowledge of logistics to streamline the process. Peggy Cherng, who was born in Myanmar (then Burma), was raised in Hong Kong and met her husband at Baker University in Kansas. She holds a master's degree in computer science and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, and began her career at the defense contractor McDonnell Douglas. She and her husband live in California.
Her largest holding is in the Panda Restaurant Group, which also owns Panda Inn. It is worth $1.5 billion, or 77 per cent of her wealth. Nearly 19 per cent of her wealth is in cash. She also has a large position, some $78 million, in the Golden Eagle Retail Group, a real estate development company. The rest of her wealth is in three homes in California.
Chief executive of Instagram. Estimated net worth: $1.5 billion
Smile, you're a billionaire. Kevin Systrom, 33, is a founder of the photo-sharing site Instagram, on which Beyoncé announced her latest pregnancy and set a record for most shares. Systrom went to Stanford University and, after graduating in 2006, put in time at Google before venturing out on his own. In 2010, he and a friend got the idea for Instagram. Two years later, the company was acquired by Facebook for $1.3 billion in cash and stock. He owned 40 per cent of the company. He remains the chief executive.
Systrom's wealth is tied to Facebook – at 88 per cent. But he has about $208 million in cash. He also has $781,000 in Wal-Mart stock from his role as a director of the company and the chairman of its technology and e-commerce committee.
Click through the gallery above to see some of the world's wealthiest people.
The New York Times