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How Much Billionaires Really Spend Each Month


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Wyly Bankruptcy
Kathy Willens/APTexas entrepreneur Sam Wyly at U.S. District Court in New York last May.
By Robert Frank | @robtfrank

Being rich is getting expensive. Just ask Sam Wyly and Anne Dias Griffin.

Court filings related to different cases involving Wyly and Griffin offer a rare look into the real spending habits of billionaire families. While all billionaires are different, with some living large and others more frugal, the filings show the so-called burn-rate, or monthly spending, for many of today's upper crust can dwarf most people's annual incomes.

Take Wyly, a former billionaire who made his fortune from Michael's Stores (MIK) and Sterling Software. He declared bankruptcy this week in the wake of a potential nine-figure forfeiture order from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The judgment stems from a jury decision that found Wyly and his now-deceased brother, Charles, liable for violating securities law by using offshore trusts to hide stock trades.

In court filings, Wyly filed his monthly expenses for the court's approval and the SEC is asking for an asset freeze. The SEC said Wyly has spent a total of $450 million over the past 10 years, "a burn-rate of approximately $3.75 million a month."

Of course, much of that may have been lawyer fees to battle the SEC. But the SEC says his everyday expense include $2,200 a month for "pool, home maintenance and landscaping," $2,000 a month for groceries, and $32,000 a month for "two personal writing assistants" (he's written several books). The salaries for the writing assistants and his housekeeper total $523,345 a year.

He pays $29,000 a month for the mortgage on his wife's bookstore, Explore Booksellers in Aspen, which is for sale. He also spends $7,000 a month "to support family and friends."

Wyly also reports paying more than $100,000 a month to his family office, which runs his investments and his finances.

The SEC said these expenses "would boggle the average homeowner" and are unjustifiable."

Wyly's attorneys declined comment.

In a similar vein, court filings from billionaire hedge funder Ken Griffin against his estranged wife Anne Dias Griffin seek to seek to paint a picture of a woman with a large personal budget. She's seeking to break their pre-nup and said Ken has cut off her credit cards and fired her staffers. She said he has an annual income of around $900 million a year.

Ken Griffin said he's already given her $40 million and continues to pay all expenses for the children.

In filings, Anne Dias Griffin said she and their children have come to "enjoy a lifestyle reserved only for the very wealthy," including houses in Chicago, Aspen, Hawaii, Miami Beach and New York. They also have "unrestricted access" to two private jets "to travel to the aforementioned homes" as well as other destinations.

She said the family has a "large group of staff members assisting the family, including extensive household, security and family office employees," and their own company that employs staffers, called "Griffin Family Services."

Ken Griffin said Anne "cannot support her claim that she has a clearly ascertainable right to have Ken fund the purchases of couture clothing, helicopter rides, private air travel and whatever lifestyle she chooses based on Ken's 'total financial resources.' "


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