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The Very Rich Get To Do Awesome Things: Billionaires And Their Hobbies
March 29, 2012
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When you have over a billion dollars to your name, it gets a little easier to pursue your passion projects. Case in point: today Amazon's Jeff Bezos announced that he has found the F-1 engines that launched the Apollo 11 mission which achieved the first Moon landing back in 1969. The engines were submerged 14,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic ocean, and the search team used advanced sonar scanning to locate them.

Pretty cool, right? But searching out long-lost space debris is the kind of hobby that requires a certain amount of disposable income - Bezos is one of the few individuals around with the money to hunt for rocket engines in his spare time.

But, of course, he's not the only one. Here is a list of what some of the more prominent members of the money club do for kicks:

Sir Richard Branson:
The chairman of the Virgin Group of business interests pretty much defines the image of the swashbuckling billionaire. Sir Richard rarely seems to meet a stunt that he wouldn't like to try for himself, whether it's his attempts to set the record for trans-Atlantic crossing by sailboat or set other records for flights in a hot-air balloon. He even attempted to set the record for putting a round of golf in the dark. He was recently defeated by Hollywood director James Cameron in an unofficial, so-called "race to the bottom", after Cameron's successful journey to one of the deepest points in the ocean this week.

Even Branson's business ventures often have an element of adventure to them: In the course of promoting various Virgin endeavours, Sir Richard has done everything from drive a tank through New York City (promoting Virgin Cola) to riding a zip line into Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square to promote Virgin Mobile.

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Jeff Taylor: Sir Richard's forays into setting world records have not gone unchallenged by his fellow business titans. Jeff Taylor, the CEO of Monster.com, actually defeated one of Branson's records, by water-skiing for a record 3.3 miles behind a blimp. It's hard to imagine a pursuit more esoteric - or possibly more prohibitively expensive - than blimp water skiing, which might be part of the reason why it seems to be the domain of well-known rich guys. In fact, at the time of Taylor's record-breaking ski, there had only ever been four previous attempts, and Branson actually issued the challenge to the Monster.com boss. How he must have regretted it.

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Mark Zuckerberg:
The boy-wonder boss of Facebook is relatively new to the game of being a billionaire adventurer, but he is not afraid to put his own stamp on it. Rather than pursuing world records in various luxury sports, Zuckerberg has instead set unique personal challenges for himself, from learning Mandarin to wearing a tie every day for a year. More recently, he has decided to take up hunting, vowing to only eat meat that he has killed himself. Hunting and gathering seems like the exact opposite of an exclusive hobby available only to billionaires, but is still far from your standard after-work pursuit.

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Bob Parsons: One of the most notorious billionaire hobbyists is the CEO of GoDaddy, who used the fortune he made as a web provider to indulge in a little bit of elephant killing. Last year, he posted a video from a hunting trip he took to Zimbabwe, in which he shot an elephant and then suggested he was on a humanitarian mission to help local villagers get rid of a dangerous pest (and get food).

Part of the controversy that followed stemmed from the graphic nature of the video itself, which features close-ups of the GoDaddy logo and a fair amount of blood and guts (consider yourself warned):

Steve Fossett: One of the original wealthy adventurers was also one of Branson's chief rivals and partners when it came to feats of derring-do. Fossett made a fortune as a commodities trader in Chicago, but eventually sold most of his interests to concentrate on his main hobby: Setting world records in various luxury sports, from sailing to hot-air ballooning.

It was through the latter pursuit that he become the first person to fly around the world non-stop. It was while flying an airplane, however, that Fossett's story took a tragic turn. He set out on a solo flight from Smith Valley, Nevada, on Sept. 3, 2007, the last time anyone saw him alive. The wreckage of his plane was not found until the following year, after an exhaustive search.

Not long after Fossett's disappearance, Branson wrote a tribute to his colleague in elite adventuring, titled "My Friend, Steve Fossett".

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Related Stories on Strombo.com:


The World's Billionaires: Who ARE These People?

Sir Richard Branson on the Politics of Protecting Endangered Animals

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