investing

Extreme billionaires

Friday, Jan. 29
Posted 11 a.m. EDT

It takes an enormous appetite for financial and business risk to become a billionaire -- or even a millionaire. That's probably not surprising, but in many cases, the very wealthy continue that quest for risk in their personal lives through extreme sports.

Take top-ranked mogul skier/Internet-company founder Dale Begg-Smith. Not only is Begg-Smith a young multimillionaire (he's 25), but he's an Olympic gold-medal winner who is wealthy enough that he hasn't had to collect sponsors. This month he's been competing and doing well in World Cup moguls events in Calgary and Lake Placid.

As a Vancouver teen, he displayed prodigious talent for navigating the Internet and the ski slopes. At some point, he had to make a decision. As this article in The Wall Street Journal reports, "I was making so much money, I had to make a choice ... the choice at that time was business."

And that's the thing. Making money usually trumps everything else, at least for a while, because billionaire thrill-seekers know they need huge amounts of cash to fuel their goal of playing the hardest when the work is done. Now that Begg-Smith has made his money, he says he's unwound his business (there was some controversy over the nature of his software company anyway) and decided to refocus his priority on winning another Gold medal.

Richard Branson

In this Forbes article on extreme billionaires, serial-adventurer and record-breaker Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, discusses the next generation of his airline, the private space travel company Virgin Galactic. Branson has already conquered sky and water -- he broke the speed record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1986 in his boat "Virgin Atlantic Challenger II," and he was the first person to cross the same ocean in a hot air balloon. Now he's set his sights even higher.

The article also mentions Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, who spent $35 million to ride aboard a Russian rocket and stay at the International Space Station.

When the money ranks in the billions, even the sky's not the limit.

How long until you become a millionaire?

Questions? Comments? E-mail jmartel@bankrate.com

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