Posted by: Chris Sandel | May 30, 2008

The Homeless Billionaire

I recently ran across this story in the Wall Street Journal of all places.

 After making his billions, Mr. Berggruen, 46, lost interest in acquiring things: They didn’t satisfy him, and in fact had become something of a burden. So he started paring down his material life, selling off his condo in New York, his mansion in Florida and his only car. He hatched plans to leave his fortune to charity and his art collection to a new museum in Berlin.

For him, wealth is about lasting impact, not stuff.

“Everybody is different and I think that we live in a material world,” he told me. “But for me, possessing things is not that interesting. Living in a grand environment to show myself and others that I have wealth has zero appeal. Whatever I own is temporary, since we’re only here for a short period of time. It’s what we do and produce, it’s our actions, that will last forever. That’s real value.”

Instead of investing primarily in financial institutions he is now building things like rice farms in Cambodia, windmill farms in Turkey and skyscrapers in inner city neighborhoods around the world.  The article doesn’t mention anything about a religious connection.  It may be that he’s simply taken a lesson from Ecclesiastes and he’s figured out that wealth can never bring fulfilment.  I hope though that his motivation goes further than that but either way it is nice to hear about people putting more energy toward giving that they put toward acquiring.

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