GOBankingRates

Watch Out, These Billionaires Could Buy Your City

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Everyone knows that the richest people in the world can buy mansions, yachts, and political influence. But did you know that the richest of them all have enough money to buy entire American cities — or 10, 20, 30 or 40 of them? Well, they can — sort of. 

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Using data from Forbes and the nonpartisan think tank Truth in Accounting, GOBankingRates matched the wealthiest billionaires with the cities they could “buy” if they chose to take ownership of those metropolitan centers by paying off their debt. If you think you don’t feel great about your finances now, wait until you see that some people are so rich that the combined debt of entire cities represents just one one-hundredth of their net worths. 

Meet the billionaires who could add the biggest cities in America to their real estate portfolios if they could work out a debt repayment plan with the mayors who call those cities home. 

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Leonard Lauder

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 5

Miriam Adelson

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 8

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Daniel Gilbert

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How Many Cities He Could Buy: 4

Jacqueline Mars

How Many Cities She Could Buy: 5

John Mars

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 7

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Stephen Schwarzman

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 9

Len Blavatnik

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 4

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Julia Koch and Family

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How Many Cities She Could Buy: 4

Charles Koch

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 4

Michael Dell

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 7

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Phil Knight and Family

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 3

MacKenzie Scott

How Many Cities She Could Buy: 5

Michael Bloomberg

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 7

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Rob Walton

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 5

Alice Walton

How Many Cities She Could Buy: 6

Jim Walton

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 7

Steve Ballmer

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 16

Warren Buffett

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 17

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Sergey Brin

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 26

Larry Ellison

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 25

Larry Page

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 28

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Mark Zuckerberg

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 35

Bill Gates

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 42

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Jeff Bezos

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 42

Elon Musk

How Many Cities He Could Buy: 5

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: To compare billionaires to cities, GOBankingRates first found the net worths of the 25 richest Americans according to the Forbes Real Time Billionaire list as of September 27, 2021. Next, GOBankingRates compiled data on the total non-capital debt or surplus held by each of the 50 most populated cities (as of 2019) in the U.S., as provided by nonpartisan think tank Truth in Accounting’s 2021 Financial State of the Cities report. GOBankingRates was then able to create a list of cities for each billionaire which hold debt that cumulatively totals to less than the billionaire’s net worth. In other words, these lists represent collections of cities for which a sum equaling their corresponding billionaire’s net worth could settle all currently unfunded expenses. In creating these lists, cities with more debt were prioritized for inclusion. After a city was added to a billionaire’s list, its total debt was subtracted from their net worth and the city with the most debt that totaled less than the remainder of their net worth was added, and so on until the remainder of their net worth was no longer larger than any considered city’s debt. GOBankingRates also calculated the percentage of each billionaire’s net worth the debt for each city included in their list represents. All research was conducted on and up to date as of Sept. 27, 2021.