This is what billionaires are buying this festive season
Billionaires, amirite? They didn’t get to where they are by wasting money on frivolous things, which means the task of buying a present for one can feel especially fraught.
Luckily we’ve spent the past year covering the cream of the luxury crop in food, travel, real estate, art, style, and sports and came up with the following gifts any megawealthy macher would appreciate. Because when money is no object, true titillation is more about the exclusivity, experience, and return on investment—and yes, sometimes a really, really big beach.
Their Own Chance at the Kentucky Derby
Although gifting etiquette says you should never buy somebody an animal, breeding a winning thoroughbred is no small endeavor, leaving your billionaire ample opportunity to make sure they’re committed—especially if you’re taking them direct to the top of the heap with Justify, winner of the 150th Belmont Stakes and 13th Triple Crown, the first champion to retire unbeaten and warrant $75 million for breeding rights.
But akin to that traditional pilgrimage to Papa before marriage, to woo Justify you’ll have to court the sire’s gatekeeper, Coolmore Stud. You can’t show up with just any ol’ filly, though. Enter horse whisperer Sean Tugel, director of bloodstock at WinStar Farm. He knows what kind of mare to pair with this stallion, he says, “because we raced and sold Justify to Coolmore.” Expect to pay $1 million to $2 million for a properly pedigreed horse, plus a 5 percent agency fee and another 5 percent upon booking the breeding nomination. And then there’s Justify’s $150,000 seed fee.
“Get going by January,” says Tugel. “Breeding season only lasts February to June.” While queued up at Coolmore, seduce its other elite stud, American Pharoah, and jockey into position for the Daily Double. “Buy two mares,” recommends Tugel, “and breed each one with a Triple Crown winner.”
Cost: $2 million to $3 million
Their Life Story
When you’re living the 11-figure life, your legacy is surely on your mind: Is it just a bunch of imposing zeros, or could it be something more? Help your billionaire through this ennui by engaging the researchers, writers, and filmmakers at the Narrative Trust, and it will be so much more. They’ll interview her, her family, her colleagues and friends (hey, you may even have a starring role!) and transform those “curated conversations,” as founder Melanie Shorin puts it, into a deeply researched oral history, printed as a book and illustrated with historical photographs. The stories, she says, “unfold like a novel.”
Packaged alongside is a hard drive loaded with not only archives of photos and transcripts, but also a video documentary interweaving the interviews with oft-forgotten home movies. “We’ve found wedding films that people haven’t seen in 50 years,” Shorin says. The intense, often joyful experience of being documented—multiple interview sessions, months of research and editing—is as important to clients as the final, legacy-securing product, she says: “It’s not like buying a drone!”
Cost: $25,000 for three interviews plus transcripts; $200,000 for the works—multiple interviews, the book, digitized archives, even a website (password-protected, presumably)
A Fantasia of Hermès
Think of the mission of Hermès’s Sur-Mésure atelier as beyond made to measure: Every item it painstakingly produces is imagined to order. Among the army of artisans at the French fashion house, Sur-Mésure is the SEAL team working on one-off projects that make monogramming seem as gauche as flying commercial.
Its mastermind, Axel de Beaufort, is a former custom yacht designer who was handpicked to steer this squad six years ago by Pierre-Alexis Dumas, the brand’s overall creative director. Since then, de Beaufort has pushed beyond bespoke into a new level of custom luxury—call it “ultraspoke.”
Past projects have ranged from a skateboard with a classic scarf print to engineering an all-carbon bicycle, boxing gloves, and, of course, several motor yachts, including the interior of an 85-footer. Think of it as the next-next-level to the Hermès roller skates available in store. De Beaufort and his team reconceived the interior of a vintage Aston Martin DB4’s interior with gold calfskin and New Zealand wool; they’ve even produced door handles swathed in signature, saddle-stitched leather. Tasked with a foosball table, they hired a professional sculptor to craft each player, subbing jockeys for soccer stars as a winking nod to the brand’s horsey roots.
The Sur-Mésure team doesn’t yet offer appliances, though kitchen designer Joanne Hudson has sold two customized Le Cornue stoves, painted in what she calls “Hermès-inspired” orange. But then again, who does their own cooking?
Cost: Sur-Mésure’s projects are individually priced, but the foosball table cost around $70,000; Hudson charges $100,000 for each of her kitchen projects
A Sno-Cat for Their Chalet
The new Rolls-Royce Cullinan may be able to drive up a mountain, but drop it on a pile of deep powder, and it will sink like a $325,000 stone—albeit an opulent one.
A savvy master of the snowy universe will leave such SUVs for the sweaty masses and opt for a Sno-Cat from Tucker, a small Oregon-based shop that’s been cranking out a few dozen of the machines every year since World War II.
Unlike snow groomers, a Tucker Sno-Cat sits on four hollow pontoons that articulate independently (thus the “cat” nomenclature), a design that lets it float atop snow and still make progress if one of the big paws falls into a crevasse.
These days, most Tuckers go to the U.S. military or oil-drilling crews, but the company is increasingly getting orders from private land owners with remote chalets. Skip the snowmobile and its frigid whine in favor of a cozy cabin with a sonorous stereo. It’s the civilized choice. And they can have any color they want—provided it’s prison-uniform orange.
Cost: $125,000 and up
A Whole Holstein Cow
It’s the meaty secret weapon on which chefs such as David Chang, April Bloomfield, and Nancy Silverton stake their reputation: Holstein beef, America’s homegrown alternative to wagyu. Holstein cows are widespread on U.S. farms with their black-and-white coats; thanks to the volume of milk they produce, most farmers use them for dairy production. But it took a shrewd San Francisco butcher to spot their potential to rival USDA prime staples like Hereford or Angus cattle.
It was the unusual pattern of marbling that caught Bryan Flanney’s attention. Much like the better-known wagyu, Holstein flesh is generously flecked with what he calls “pinpricks of fat.” As a result, these flecks supercharge any Holstein steak’s juiciness and flavor. Flannery Beef offers only Southern California-raised Holsteins that have been grain- rather than grass-fed, as the carbohydrates are crucial to maximizing that marbling. He calls it California Reserve.
Flannery sells a variety of dry-aged Holstein cuts, including the signature Jorge, a bone-in rib-eye cut from the chuck end of the prime rib with a generous portion of the rib-eye cap that’s aged for about five weeks; it serves up to four people. You can order that steak for delivery by mail anywhere in the country, but better to send your driver to collect an entire, custom-butchered carcass, which Flannery will gladly age to order.
Cost: From $30,000 for an entire cow to be butchered, dry-aged, and delivered
A Solid Diamond Ring
Who needs Marie Antoinette’s old baubles when you can dispense with the metal setting altogether and get your best billionaire a thoroughly modern pièce de résistance.
The 2,000 to 3,000 facets are laser-cut from a single giant gemstone, a hint at what’s possible in the burgeoning lab-grown diamond market. Sure, it may not have been dug out of the ground—Diamond Foundry created it safely and sustainably utilizing plasma reactor technology—but even De Beers is now a player in the market, and the bling factor here would certainly rival any enormous, glittering tree it’s placed under on a snowy Christmas morning in Aspen.
Sir Jony Ive, Apple Inc.’s chief design officer, and industrial designer Marc Newson joined forces to imagine this unique piece of jewelry, which will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in Miami, as part of the third (RED) auction, with proceeds going toward the fight against AIDS. The interior is cylindrically cut for smoothness and can be cut to fit the lucky recipient up to a size five.
Cost: Estimated at $150,000 to $250,000
Carmen in Their Backyard
Chances are that opera-loving billionaire in your life is already a Golden Horseshoe member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York or has access to the Founders Room in Los Angeles, but what about their friends? Despite how genre-bending, eye-popping, and sexy many modern productions are, opera remains a difficult sell for some.
So make it easier. Visionary Argentine director Valentina Carrasco and scorching Georgian mezzo-soprano Ketevan Kemoklidze will put their provocative Habanera on your billionaire’s doorstep—and all four acts of Georges Bizet’s 1875 classic. This contemporary update of Carmen, set at the Mexico-U.S. border wall with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, addresses feminism and the #MeToo movement; it premiered earlier this year in Rome to astonished audiences and has never been staged in America.
Although it made its debut more than 140 years ago, “Carmen is about today’s conflicts,” says Carrasco, “the power of sensuality, gender violence, and jealousy. But above all, it’s about freedom and the price you are ready to pay for it.”
Actual bullfighting lessons from the toreador (Simón Orfila) are extra, but reenactments of his giant pillow dive are free. And Ketevan is known for fixing a mean mcvadi (Georgian barbecue). As we learned from his stabbing of our titular character, though, just don’t leave Don José (Basque tenor Andeka Gorrotxategi) with the knife and skewers.
Cost: $75,000 for a sensible, travel-size version of the production; $100,000 for full cast, crew, orchestra, and stagecraft