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The homeless billionaire

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

We all harbor a fantasy for how we'd live if only we were super-rich. I have to admit, reading about the life of Nicolas Berggruen marks the first time anyone came close to living in the style I envision, even if we differ on details. Travel light, but travel widely; meet interesting people around the globe and find a worthy cause to fund. Oh, and he loves chocolate and eats it, too. His biggest possession is his Gulfstream IV jet, so he never has to fly commercial. Heaven.

Berggruen, whose net worth is estimated by Bloomberg Markets at $2.5 billion, didn't always live such an unencumbered life. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, he sold his Manhattan apartment in 2000 and now drifts among five-star hotels around the world with only a few personal items. "I'm not that interested in material things," he told Bloomberg. "As long as I find a good bed that I can sleep in, that's enough." Granted, those beds are in hotels such as the New York Carlyle and Claridge's in London, but it's not like he doesn't have the money and, after all, he's saving a bundle on property taxes and homeowners insurance.

Berggruen made his fortune as chairman of a private equity firm that buys distressed companies. In response to the global financial crisis, he founded the Nicolas Berggruen Institute in 2009, a think tank with a goal of improving global governance, to which he has pledged more than $100 million.

He admits he's a novice when it comes to global policymaking, but you have to admire his spirit and willingness to learn. He schedules lunch or dinner every day with someone he deems "interesting," whether it be an author, artist or world leader. Once again, money opens doors, but at least he's opening them.

What's your fantasy life as a billionaire?

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