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How to bag a billionaire

Date: 2006-10-17

WHAT'S the difference between a millionaire and a billionaire? Bottles of Champagne consumed in a day? Range of gold plated Maseratis parked in the driveway? Number of nose jobs? Nope. Billionaires are more likely to be single.

At least, that's the theory. A quick glance at the recently published Forbes list of the world's billionaires 2006 defines a surprisingly hefty amount of the world's richest as "single", "divorced" or "widowed". And, yes, you really can check - there's even a handy search facility on the Forbes website to help you on your way.

Sad, isn't it? To think of all these super-rich types sitting around on their private islands, Learjets parked quietly on the landing strip, and no-one to share their hearts of gold with.

Well, we'd like to change all that, with a handy guide to tracking down, chatting up and moving in on the world's richest single men and women: where they go, who they mix with, even the kind of reading material they're likely to be most impressed by.

MOST people naturally think that unless they're in the money themselves, they'll never have luck bagging a billionaire. But, according to Susie Ambrose, a multi-millionairess herself and the founder and chief executive of Seventy Thirty, an exclusive dating agency that charges the super rich up to £60,000 to find their perfect match, nothing could be further from the truth.

"A lot of millionaires don't particularly want to date other millionaires. They've got money, so they think - what's the point? It might be that they're more traditional and believe that the man should be the breadwinner, or it could be that they think other millionaires are stuck up and high maintenance. But there are certainly a lot of rich people who aren't interested in meeting other rich people - they want someone normal."

LET's face it. The chances of finding the likes of Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim Helu (world ranking: three; net worth: $30 billion [£17.1 billion]) or BMW heir Stefan Quandt (world ranking: 82; net worth: $6.6 billion [£3.8 billion]) playing pool down your local over a pint of Stella and a packet of Quavers are a bit slim. Bagging a billionaire means tracking them down in their natural habitat. There are of course, the usual millionaires' playgrounds of Monte Carlo, St Tropez and Martha's Vineyard, all of which present seasonal crops of rich pickings, but true billionaires can prove a little more elusive.

Take Calvin Ayre (world ranking: 746; net worth: $1 billion [£508 million]), founder of internet gambling site Bodog.com. He hangs out in Costa Rica with his five servants and a sniper-trained bodyguard because his company's dealings would be illegal in the US. Then there's property magnate Nina Wang (world ranking: 154; net worth $4.2 billion [£2.4 billion]), who lives in Hong Kong, but never goes anywhere without her private army of 50 bodyguards.

However, all is not lost. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (world ranking: six; net worth: $22 billion [£12.6 billion]) for example, might at first seem utterly inaccessible, living on an island near Seattle with a 10,000 sq ft mansion and his mother ensconced in the grounds.

But, according to Forbes, he also has a house in London's Holland Park - putting him well within reach. Remember - most billionaires have several homes scattered across the world - chances are one of them will be just an easyJet ticket away.

ONCE you've got their geographical location pinned down, you can really start to schmooze. In London, bars such as the American Bar at the Savoy (for the Russians) and The Collection in Kensington (part owned by heiress and socialite Paris Hilton) are known for their multi-millionaire pulling power. On the continent head for the French Riviera where, according to Forbes, Russian metals magnate Mikhail Prokhorov (world ranking: 89; net worth: $6.4 billion [£3.7 billion]) holds legendary blow-out parties, and keep a look out for Heidi Horten (world ranking: 224; net worth $3 billion [£1.7 billion]) who can be found sailing round the Med on her 315-foot yacht Carinthia VII.

Vodka billionaire (yes, really) Roustam Tariko (world ranking: 410; net worth: $1.9 billion [£1 billion]) meanwhile, can often be spotted in Moscow's nightclubs or holding parties on the island of Sardinia.

Hotels are always a good place to try and snag your prey. The latest hotels for the super-rich include the six-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai, where there are no rooms, only suites, the Ladera in St Lucia, recently voted the best hotel in the world, and the Punta Mita Four Seasons in Mexico which, according to luxury travel company Fischer Travel - which charges $50,000 (£29,000) just to sign up for its services - is a hot favourite on the billionaire circuit.

THE bad news is that billionaires can be flighty. They're used to the best of everything, and that includes beauty. Calvin Ayre apparently surrounds himself with gorgeous lovelies (at the same time claming he hasn't got a regular girlfriend because "it would be unfair to the girl"), while the late oil billionaire J Howard Marshall famously married the Monroe-esque model Anna Nicole Smith when she was 26 and he was 89. (After his death in 1995, Smith fought for and won a $415 million settlement.)

But the trick is not to go over the top. "It's very important not to look tarty," says Ambrose. "The super rich loathe that look, and it looks desperate." Instead think understated chic; clean, elegant lines. Giorgio Armani (world ranking 158; net worth $4.1 billion [£2.3 billion]) is perfect.

When it comes to beauty treatments billionaires don't spare any expense. Fancy a caviar hair wash or a diamond massage? Both use the real articles, and are available at exclusive salon to the rich and famous, Hari's in London. So what if having fish eggs swilled through your hair sets you back £200? It's bound to be worth it when you find yourself nibbling the same stuff over dinner that night...

CALVIN Ayre likes to quote Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud (world ranking: eight; net worth: $20 billion [£11.5 billion]), owns two Daewoo Matizs (parked beside his two Rolls-Royce Phantoms), Carlos Slim Helu is a sucker for Rodin, while Hind Hariri (world ranking: 562; net worth: $1.4 billion [£799 million]) the youngest billionaire on the list at 22 and daughter of the assassinated leader of Lebanon Rafik Hariri, takes an interest in politics, even campaigning for her brother.

These folk might be super-rich, but they still have hobbies and interests - and it pays to do your research. Ambrose says: "Quite often you'll find that when they're on a date, they won't want to talk about business at all. They're far more likely to want to talk about art, music, current affairs - anything but work."

BILLIONAIRES, it turns out, are just as star-struck as the rest of us. James Packer (world ranking: 114; net worth: $5 billion [£2.9 billion]) is pals with Tom Cruise (both he and fiancée Katie Holmes attended Packer's father Kerry's funeral last month), while eBay founder Jeffrey Skoll (world ranking: 114; net worth: $5 billion [£2.9 billion]) has produced two George Clooney films, including the Oscar-winning Syriana.

"They tend to like creative types," says Ambrose. "Writers, musicians, or people involved in charities who have dedicated themselves to helping others less fortunate than themselves." Let's hope none of them bump into Angelina Jolie then, or we're all sunk.

LUXURY is a state of mind as much as anything else. If you're really serious about taking home a billionaire, you need to start thinking like one. Think not of a nice back garden, but, like 22-year-old German property heir Albert von Thurn und Taxis (world ranking 410; net worth $1.9 billion [£1 billion]), 30,000 hectares of woodland.

Museums are no longer places you visit to appreciate art, but buildings you fund and then, like Carlos Slim Helu, name after your late wife. Submarines are not, as you may have thought, workaday naval vessels but, if you're Paul Allen at least, things that come free with your 413-foot yacht. And a house, according to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud of Saudi Arabia, should never have fewer than 500 television sets. See? It's simple once you get the hang of it.

INVESTOR Warren Buffett (world ranking: two; net worth: $42 billion [£24 billion]) still lives in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,500.

It may now be worth around $700,000 but, given that he could buy it 60,000 times over, one can't help but think that maybe it's time to move on up. However, money as big as Buffett's doesn't have to shout. And neither should you.

"Billionaires don't want someone who is always talking money, money, money," says Ambrose. "If you start discussing finance or asking questions about money, you'll show yourself up. The key rule is, just don't ask."

So if your billionaire date whips out a Centurian AmEx card (that's the black one it's impossible to apply for), don't ask what the credit limit is.





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