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The true cost of being a billionaire

Fri 03 Jun 2016, By Dean Cromwell
The true cost of being a billionaire

You’ve heard the expression ‘more money, more problems’, right? Well that’s certainly true in the case of Tom Golisano. He’s the founder of Paychex, a provider of payroll, human resource and benefits outsourcing solutions for small to medium businesses. But even he isn’t willing to pay the $845000 bill to refurbish his luxury yacht.

And that’s why he’s taken the matter to court.

Golisano is listed on Forbes as having a net worth of $2.7 billion, but he’s adamant that he was overcharged for the refurbishment of his 240-foot superyacht, Laurel. In 2013 he hired Norma Goldman, of Vitoch Interiors in Rochester, N.Y to handle the redecoration. The yacht consists of six staterooms, a gym and a Jacuzzi. For just $604000 a week you can charter this yacht along with 20 crew members. According to a complaint filed last year, Golisano claims that he agreed to pay Goldman $140 an hour and that she would only charge him for the cost of the materials.

Goldman claims otherwise. She says that she never agreed to this and only offered Golisano a discount, charging him less than the manufacturers recommended retail prices. At $12762 for curtains and $6952 to reupholster two chairs in the master suite that does seem to be a bit over the top.

However, Golisano inspected the work in once it was completed in 2014 and didn’t raise any objections at the time. He even went on to pay the full amount and the yacht was sent out on a chartered trip to the Mediterranean. He has also used Goldman’s services in the past when redecorating one of his New York homes. And she claims that she used the same method for calculating her bill on that occasion with no complaints from Golisano.

So what exactly is he looking for? Well, he seeking a $400000 refund, plus interest for what he believes is a breach of contract. Goldman tried to get the case dismissed because Golisano had already made payment but this has been dismissed by a New York Supreme Court Judge. However, it seems that Golisano is reneging on an oral agreement he made with Goldman. He promised not to take the matter to court provided she replace or repair any items he found fault with at no extra cost.

The fact that Golisano has already made payment for the refurbishment does make it more difficult for him to claim any breach of contract. But we’ll have to wait to and see what the courts decide. It seems that even though Golisano could afford to pay for the refurbishment of his yacht, he’s not prepared to be overcharged for it. It’s still an asset that he uses to create an income for himself, so it would seem that he is perfectly within his rights to ask for his money back.

Even if you aren’t in the same league as Golisano, it’s worth remembering that you have the right to protect your investments. It’s also an important lesson for anyone playing the lottery in the hopes of becoming part of the super-rich set. Even big houses, luxury cars and big ticket items require upkeep and maintenance. So if you’re planning on maintaining your lifestyle, you’ll need to budget for this too.

That’s probably why you hear of lottery winners who end up right back where they started after splashing out on luxury items. They don’t realise just how much is required to keep up appearances. And soon they find themselves struggling to keep up with their monthly bills, just like everyone else. Living modestly and investing your money is still the best thing you can do with a jackpot. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but neither is taking someone to court because you think they over-charged you on refurbishing your luxury superyacht.