One thing that struck me when reading about Jorge Bergoglio, aka Pope Francis, is his apparent frugality of lifestyle. This, in turn, led me to wonder which other leaders live modestly, and which lead lives of conspicuous excess. Extensive research has led me to these 10 noble candidates, 5 frugal and 5 frivolous.
Our Frugal Five
5) Pope Francis. The former Cardinal of Buenos Aires lives in a small flat and rides the underground, perhaps even more impressively he supports not Boca Juniors or River Plate, but the rather less glitzy San Lorenzo de Almagro. That’s a bit like finding Madrid’s mayor supports Getafe rather than Atletico / Real Madrid.
4) Joyce Banda. More of a Frugal Frances, Malawi’s president was feted for flogging off her predecessor’s private jet and fleet of luxury cars to maintain a lifestyle somewhat more aligned with conditions in one of Africa’s poorest countries.
2) President Ahmadinejad. Evidently one of the world’s more controversial premiers, the Iranian president drives a battered old Peugeot to work and sleeps on the floor. This latter habit apparently put him in an awkward position on a recent state visit to Indonesia, where the poor chap was ensnared in a $3,500 a night hotel suite despite having planned to sleep on the floor of an upstairs room at his local embassy. However, top spot has to go to the man who could buy anything in the world but simply chooses not to…
1) Warren Buffett. The investing legend lives in the Omaha, Nebraska, home he bought for $31,500 more than 50 years ago. Though worth around $53bn, he doesnt have a mobile phone, doesn’t have a computer at his desk (he reads the papers instead), and drives his own Cadillac. He doesn’t own a yacht because, as he puts it, “Most toys are just a pain in the neck.” When he married his second wife, rather than a lavish affair, it was a brief ceremony at his daughter’s house in Omaha. When he bought a corporate jet in 1989 for $6.7m he suffered a fit of guilt and named the aircraft “The Indefensible”. He has begged Washington to increase his taxes but that fits in with his stated aim of giving away 99% of his fortune, most of it going through the Gates Foundation.
Mr Buffet is a worthy frugal chart topper indeed.
Our Frivolous Five
5) Prince Hans-Adam II. The head of tiny Liechtenstein punches well above his weight in the wealth stakes. Poor prince Hans has to juggle a family fortune of $7.5bn with his own personal wealth of another $4bn (he owns LGT Group, a private wealth and asset manager). This all makes Prince Hans one of the richest heads of state in the world and Europe’s most wealthy monarch. Though undoubtedly rich, he’s nowhere near gauche enough to make it to the top of our list.
4) King Mohamed VI. Morocco’s monarch, despite what appear to be laudable efforts to reduce poverty and improve human rights, has quite the lifestyle. The daily operating budget of his palace in Rabat is estimated to be $960,000 although that includes his clothes and the upkeep on the cars, including an Aston Martin or two. He’s got a private jet too. Not a Lear jet or anything like that, no, it’s a Boeing 747-400 which, in commercial configuration, would carry around 600 people. But King Mohamed’s social conscience does mark him down, no such encumbrance for our next frivolous fave…
3) Donald Trump. What he lacks in funds (worth a mere $2.8bn), he makes up for in hair, and modesty: “Those who dislike me don’t know me, and have never met me. My guess is that they dislike me out of jealousy.” Just to show that he’s worth a top 5 place for frivolity, and poor taste, you can enjoy an inside tour of his $100m private jet. Note the charming external livery. However, Trump’s not even taxiing down the runway compared to our next candidate…
2) Vladimir Putin. For a man with a declared income of £75,000 per annum, Putin should, by rights, be closer to frugal than frivolous. However, the annual bill for maintaining his presidential lifestyle is over a billion dollars. The largest of his four yachts alone costs $50m a year to maintain. He has access to over 20 presidential palaces, 9 added under his tenure, just one of which has a staff of 1,000. And why have one aircraft when you can have 58? One of these, his Ilyushin-96, features an $18m cabin fitted out by jewellers, including a $75,000 loo. Though this report is in Russian, the photos of Putin’s presidential assets speak for themselves.
Yet even dear Vladimir is eclipsed by the man said to have spent more than any other person on the planet…
It’s the quirkier aspects of his spending which really catch the eye though – $1.5m on a badminton coach? I thought my tennis lessons were expensive. The man spent $1.3m on erotic fountain pens?! $7m on a single rug which is also what he paid Whitney Houston to sing for him. $10m bought him a set of erotic watches. He spent $17m having Michael Jackson perform for his 50th birthday, hosted in a stadium specially built for the event. And his 1,788 room palace is, according to one visitor, “without equal in the world for offensive and ugly display.” A runaway frivolous number 1!