Burger King billionaire doesn’t own a house or even a watch

  • Nicolas Berggruen, 50, has £1.5billion fortune… but plans to give half away
  • Has bought £881m stake in Burger King… but carries things in paper bag
  • ‘Whatever I own is only temporary. It’s our actions that have real value’

Like most nomads, Nicolas Berggruen travels light.

He doesn’t own a house, car or even a watch and the few belongings he does have are carried around in a paper bag.

Possessions have ‘zero appeal’, he says. It’s our actions that have real value.

But what sets the 50-year-old apart from nearly all other homeless people is the small matter of his £1.5billion fortune.

Berggruen got rid of his New York pad and private island 12 years ago. Home is far more transient nowadays.

Life for him is a jet-set one – trotting the globe, hanging out with beautiful women and staying in luxury hotels, sometimes in 14 different cities in a month as he builds his enormous business empire.

His most recent acquisition has been a £881million stake in Burger King.

But in spite of his wealth, the Franco-German tycoon insists he doesn’t need, or want, material goods.

‘Possessing things is not interesting,’ he told the Daily Mirror. ‘Living in grand environments 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 our actions that will last for ever. That’s real value.’

Berggruen was born into a privileged family (his Jewish father, Heinz, was a wealthy art dealer who befriended Pablo Picasso) in Paris in 1961.

He had a rebellious streak when growing up – getting expelled for ‘insubordination’ from a Swiss boarding school and once vowing he wouldn’t learn ‘a word of English’ because it was the language of imperialism.

He did, however, move away from that view and went on to study finance at university in New York.

In 1988, he jointly founded hedge fund Alpha Investment Management and later created Berggruen Holdings, which bought slices of firms around the world.

One of these was German department store Karstadt, which he acquired for one euro and then saved 25,000 jobs there by investing £40million.

He’s never revealed why, but in 2000 he had something of an epiphany and vowed to give away most of his wealth.

In that year, he sold his Fifth Avenue home in New York – and his private island off Miami – and focused instead on his hotel-hopping travels, staying at some of the world’s finest establishments such as Claridge’s in London.

Mingling with the rich and famous, he holds an annual Oscars party at Los Angeles Chateau Marmont hotel, where he hosts celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Paris Hilton.

He told the Daily Mirror: ‘I have always spent a lot of time in hotels, so it started to seem easier to do this. I feel happier.

‘I am not that attached to material things. I have very few possessions. Luckily, as a man, you don’t need much.’

Berggruen is one of more than 50 billionaires who have agreed to give away at least half of their fortunes.

He spends millions buying artworks by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst just to hand them to museums for free.

And last year he spent £12million on a campaign to save California from its crippling debts.

Perhaps a homeless charity will be next on his list.

Source: The Daily Mail

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