Rich & Richer: The Wealth Explosion
There's been an explosion of wealth creation in the U.S. in recent years. But it's not about trickle-down economics. It's more a matter of gusher-up capitalism, rivaling the days a century ago when business barons such as Carnegie, Ford and Rockefeller built empires and fortunes. Microsoft founder and entrepeneur-turned-philantrophist Bill Gates has actually managed to amass a fortune rivaling those of that gilded age.
The stock and real estate markets -- at least until recently -- soared for years, creating billions in wealth. Forget about CEO pay. What's a $200-plus million severance package for the head of a Dow 30 component, when hedge fund managers are routinely making that kind of money in a year. Three made a billion dollars or more last year. The high-flying world of private equity is also creating billions in income.
Counting The Ways
As Scott Cohn reports, there are now 946 billionaires in the world, according to Forbes Magazine, about 19% more than a year ago. In the U.S., the top 1% of the population now holds 22% of the nation's income.
And all that money has to go somewhere. After you've given away millions -- indeed, in rare cases, billions -- to charity, there's still cash to spend. And there's plenty of companies looking to help. In our special report, we take a look at some of those companies as well as other ways to spend a fortune -- whether it is autos, jewelry, dining, housing or vacations.
Peaceful Zen Garage
Many a successful entrepreneur has started his empire in a garage, but you wouldn't expect the wealthy to deem them a retreat.
Enter Harris Laski, a real-estate developer and classic-car enthusiast, who has combined business and pleasure -- creating blissful garage retreats for his prized possessions.
CNBC's Jane Wells reports that he has built several garages on or near the Pacific Palisades, totaling 7,000 square feet.
With posh details like French doors that open vertically, Laski says he "designed them like homes." The accompanying greenery creates great tranquility: "Having your cars next to a garden makes it feel like everything belongs together."
Lexus Goes For Six Figures
Lexus is the top-selling luxury auto brand, thanks to the IS, ES and LS models being popular among buyers willing to spend $30,000 and $75,000 on a vehicle. Overall, luxury sales have more than doubled since 1999 to 1.9 million units.
Now Lexus wants a piece of the growing upper end of the luxury market, where Mercedes and BMW sell vehicles for more than $100,000.
As Phil LeBeau reports, Lexus is taking a calculated approach to its quest by studying what car lovers want.
It turns out that the super rich who can afford $100,000 cars usually have several of them. But any car in that class has to be distinctive.
So, Lexus is trying to stand out by emphasizing technology. Its new LS 600 is an eight-cylinder hybrid that delivers 12-cylinder performance.
Jewels Of The Crown
It's easy to spend a fortune on jewelry -- one piece at a time.
These days, items costing $20,000 and up are the fastest growing category of jewelry for Cartier, Tiffany and Bulgari. And suddenly the hottest market in the luxury business is the U.S.
As Margaret Brennan reports, Italy's Bulgari has targeted the U.S. for aggressive expansion. The U.S. already accounts for 30% of the company's sales, but the Rome-based company just refurbished its flagship New York City store and plans additional ones. The company is also considering expanding into malls and high-end department stores.
Richemont's Cartier and Tiffany are also expanding. Tiffany, for instance, plans five to seven stores in the Midwest -- all 5,000 square feet.
Sacks is looking to create branded jewelry, working with the likes of Chanel and Gucci to compete in the lucrative market.