Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Build Your Mansion Better than a Billionaire

Good morning, Happy Mansion Lovers!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I certainly hope so. I know that I am!

Did you ever dream about building a home that's twice the size of the Taj Mahal?

Have you ever wanted to live on a princely estate built to your specifications?

Does the idea of showing up others excite you?

Do you enjoy good gossip about billionaires?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, this blog post may provide a bit of fun this morning.

Today, we'll look at David Duffield's plans to build a 72,000 square foot mansion in Alamo, California.

Let's start by putting the size of that plan into perspective. The Taj Mahal in India is considered one of the world's most impressive palaces. Yet that colossus has a mere 34,596 square feet according to Parmy Olson of Forbes.com (see http://www.forbes.com/facesinthenews/2005/10/10/duffield-peoplesoft-mansion-cx_pwo_1010autofacescan07.html?partner=yahootix)

But, as you point out, that's old money. Surely new money can do better. You're correct. Bill Gates, world's richest human, has a 48,000 square foot compound near Seattle according to Michael Ledtke of The Associated Press (see http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05284/584797.stm).

Even the United States can top the Taj Mahal. The White House accounts for 55,000 square feet according to Jon Swartz in USA Today on October 7, 2005.

But perhaps the best comparison is to William Randolph Heart's San Simeon overlooking the Pacific. The Hearst Castle weighs in at 60,645 square feet.

If we look into Mr. Duffield's past, we may get a hint of what's really going on. He headed PeopleSoft, a software firm, for many years. That company was recently purchased by fellow billionaire, Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation. Mr. Ellison also has a famous mansion built at a reputed cost of $100 million. But that mansion is mostly for entertaining business customers and the living quarters are estimated to be only 10,000 square feet.

Could it be that Mr. Duffield wants to have the last laugh by taking Oracle's money to one-up Mr. Ellison? If so that's a dangerous game. While Mr. Duffield is barely a billionaire, Mr. Ellison is one many times over. Perhaps his next home will have 720,000 square feet. He can afford it.

By comparison, the average American home is a little over 2,000 square feet.

Where do you build such an enormous three story home? Well naturally it's hard to find a big enough lot in California. So Mr. Duffield has bought an 8,000 square foot fixer-upper on 22 acres which he plans to tear down to make room for his castle. The Associated Press article has a photograph of the home that's doomed to be leveled.

Perhaps you can offer $1 to buy it if you pay for the move. That would save Mr. Duffield the cost of tearing it down.

In the meantime, Mr. Duffield has been alternating between temporary housing in Silicon Valley while he tried to fight off Mr. Ellison and his estate near beautiful Lake Tahoe. But you can tell that Mr. Duffield has big things in mind. In the Lake Tahoe area, he owns Ponderosa Ranch, an enormous tourist attraction where the television show, Bonanza, was shot. Mr. Duffield is also starting up a new company to topple Mr. Ellison's Oracle. So the new home is his way of having a pied-a-terre while he ups and software wars.

But some of the neighbors aren't happy. They don't want their tiny 5,000 to 15,000 homes to look small. Mr. Duffield's mansion will be a very big stick in their eyes every day if the mansion is built.

The mansion proposal is currently before an architectural commission and the matter will have its initial resolution later this month according to news reports. If you're in the area, you might want to attend that meeting. It should be great fun!

We're open minded people. Let's devote this blog entry to giving Mr. Duffield some free advice about how to build his mansion.

1. Buy the whole town and tear down all the existing homes.

This isn't the Middle Ages. Castle owners don't need peasants to tend to their crops and cattle in exchange for protection from bandits. Why should a billionaire have to put up with such nonsense?

2. Look for empty land so you don't have any immediate neighbors to be annoyed.

San Francisco has a huge undeveloped section called Golden Gate Park. If that's not centrally located enough, Manhattan has Central Park. Either one has nice grounds that could be turned into a nice estate for a castle.

3. Expand an existing fixer-upper that has curb appeal.

The Taj Mahal must surely be in need to repair. Mr. Duffield could use that as the servant's wing and build on the main house to it. If India is going to be the future of the software business, what better place to locate his dream mansion than in that emerging nation?

4. Think bigger.

I suspect that if Mr. Duffield had picked a larger parcel of land there would have been no complaints. After all, if no one can see the mansion, who can be annoyed.

In California, there's a huge, unoccupied parcel called the Mojave Desert. Mr. Duffield could buy that, pipe in a little water and enjoy some peace and quiet.

5. Create a compound rather than just a mansion.

The Kennedys have a compound don't they? If you have a lot of mansions linked together, that's got to be better than just one.

I suggest making the 72,000 mansion into a gym. Then, Mr. Duffield can get enough cardio-vascular exercise by running from room to room . . . and up and down stairs.

6. Put in some cottages and keep your enemies close.

Rather than be at war with Bill Gates and Larry Ellison, why doesn't Mr. Duffield offer to build each of them a cottage? If the cottages were 200,000 square feet each, they would surely want to upgrade from their old digs. From there, they could plot how to takeover Mr. Duffield's house. You know the old advice, keep your enemies close.

7. Add a little recreation.

What could be more boring than a mansion without recreation? That's another reason why Mr. Duffield needs more land. I suggest that he recreate Lake Tahoe (but on a larger scale) on his estate so he won't have to long for his old home there. Then, he can water ski or go fishing whenever he wants.

8. Add some privacy.

Mr. Duffield must hate all this publicity. Some reporters seem to be making him out to be some kind of insensitive billionaire who doesn't care about other peoples' mansions and feelings.

I suggest a 100 foot high wall around the exterior of his estate so that people cannot peek in to bother him. He should also put in a retractable roof over the whole property so that satellites and airplanes cannot peer in from above if he ever wants to cavort in the all together.

9. Manage his press relations more proactively.

This is the sort of story that can end up in the National Enquirer or the Star along with images of aliens. I suggest that Mr. Duffield buy up all the newsstand tabloids so he can point the stories at other billionaires instead.

10. Plead poverty in the hearings.

As a cultivated, considerate neighbor, I'm sure that Mr. Duffield would like to provide all of these techniques to help them be happier withhis mansion. But maybe his budget doesn't quite stretch that far.

Mr. Duffield should point out that he has to live on a budget like everyone else and that's he's barely a billionaire.

Can any billionaire do a better job of building their mansion? With our advice, it's a snap!


N.B. As you can tell, I'm experimenting with color. Let me know what you like and what I should change about my use of color. Many thanks to Linda Grace for her suggestions which I am following!

Please let me know what else you would like to learn, and I'll do my best to help in future blog entries.

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Live Spiritually Better than a Billionaire at http://livespirituallybetterthanabillionaire.blogspot.com/,

Be More Successful than a Billionaire at http://bemoresuccessfulthanabillionaire.blogspot.com/,

Enjoy Football Better than a Billionaire at http://enjoyfootballbetterthanabillionaire.blogspot.com/ and

Be a World Hero Better than a Billionaire at http://beaworldherobetterthanabillionaire.blogspot.com/.

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May God bless you.

Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Concierge

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell