Who wants to party like a rock star when you can party like a billionaire? That is if you are lucky enough to get invited to one of their blow-out bashes.
Our roundup of the splashiest billionaire fetes proves that these titans don't just know how to make money, they also know how to spend it. Their parties--often costing well into the millions--are spectacular exercises in hedonism, frequently featuring intimate performances by rock stars, week-long extravaganzas on private islands and mingling with A-list crowds of other magnates and celebrities. Not to mention all the finest champagne, caviar and other gourmet treats they can get down their gold-plated gullets.
One of the hottest tickets of 2007 was an invitation to the 60th birthday party of private equity king Stephen Schwarzman, which took place in February just four days after his Blackstone group announced the world's biggest buyout ever, a $39 billion deal involving commercial-building empire Equity Office Group.
Held in the cavernous Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan's swank upper east side, the party, reported to have cost $3 million, drew 350 guests including Donald Trump, new Merrill Lynch chief John Thain, TV personalities Maria Bartiromo and Barbara Walters and Washington D.C. insider Vernon Jordan. Rod Stewart performed and Patti LaBelle sang happy birthday.
Schwarzman's affair sounds quaint when you hear about parties thrown by British retail billionaire Philip Green. He makes his money selling, among other things, cheap chic fashions, but there is nothing cheap about his galas. This past March, he celebrated his 55th birthday by surprising 100 friends to a five-day all-inclusive jaunt to the Maldives. Guests were told to pack bathing suits and instructed to arrive at England's Stansted airport where they were herded onto chartered planes and flown to the island.
There, the 100 lucky revelers were serenaded by both George Michael and Jennifer Lopez. The celebration was capped off with a spectacular fireworks display. It was particularly opulent considering the fact that just five years earlier, Green celebrated his 50th birthday with a toga party for 200 guests in Cyprus, where Tom Jones and Rod Stewart sang.
Another billionaire who likes to spend on entertainment is Russian Andrey Melnichenko whose wife, Serbian supermodel Aleksandra Nikolic was a member of Yugoslavian pop group, Models. Over the years, he has squired Whitney Houston, Mark Anthony, Enrique Iglesias and Christina Aguilera to sing at various events. Most recently, he spent a reported $2 million to fly J.Lo, one of his wife's favorite pop stars, to perform at Nikolic's 30th birthday party in April.
While some billionaires wait for landmark birthdays or even bar mitzvahs to throw a big bash, leveraged buyout king Ron Perelman hosts his annual combined birthday/New Year's bash aboard his 188-foot yacht anchored in St. Bart's. One of the most anticipated events of the year, invitations only go out to a lucky 200, including past guests like Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen, former Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, Denzel Washington, Natalie Portman, Eddie Murphy and Jon Bon Jovi.
Then there are those who like to keep their parties more intimate. One billionaire who has never been named threw a private party for 15 guests including Bill Gates and U2's Bono last year in the South of France (full disclosure: Bono is a major investor in Forbes.com). Singer Christina Milian and Latin dance group The Gypsy Kings performed at the affair. So did Gates, who took the microphone from the pop starlet and led the crowd in a stirring rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." Just goes to show, even billionaires just wanna have fun.