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Around Town: Think long

November 04, 2010|By Anita Susan Brenner

Our mother ship, the Los Angeles Times, broke the story first. The Huffington Post picked it up. "An eccentric, globetrotting multibillionaire who doesn't own a home in California — or anywhere, for that matter; he says he has little use for owning things — is about to breathe life into efforts to shake up Sacramento. Nicolas Berggruen will give at least $20 million to a group of Californians who long to restructure state government so it is more responsive to voters, more responsible with public funds and ready to reposition the state to meet the challenges of today's economy."

Given the utter nastiness of this year's mid-term elections, one wonders why the Huffington Post characterized Nicolas Berggruen as "eccentric."

Look at it this way. If you were a 49-year-old, highly-intelligent bachelor, with a degree in finance and international business from New York University, with no children or spouse, would you need to purchase real estate? If you earned your billions by founding your own private investment company, would you need to purchase lots of cars instead of founding your own private think tank?

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Berggruen is quoted as saying, "Living in a grand environment 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 forever."

Berggruen has given up most material possessions, with the exception of an art collection and a private jet. He lives out of hotels.

Berggruen's philosophy is reminiscent of Dave Bruno's "100 Thing Challenge."The 100 Thing Challenge proposes that people limit their material possessions "in order to free up physical and mental and spiritual space." The idea is to downsize your possession to 100 things.

Bruno is not a billionaire. Not yet. Unlike Berggruen, Bruno has a wife and kids. It would be easier to own a private jet and live in hotels than to totally downsize to 100 items when you have little kids. Could I live with one mascara instead of ten? Of course. Four St. John's knits and one little black dress? Probably.

But what about the kids? From the moment our Andrew was born, our friends were so ecstatic that he immediately acquired 30 stuffed animals, a football and a toy truck. They all had names, like "Owly," "Football" and "Dave the Truck." It's hard to downsize when your stuff has a name.

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