Entrepreneurs

3 things Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey splurged on when Facebook bought it for $2 billion

If you ever become a multi-millionaire overnight, there's a good chance you'll have the urge to immediately spend some of your newfound fortune on a few big purchases.

Palmer Luckey didn't win the lottery, but he did suddenly find himself with a life-changing amount of money when he sold his start-up to Facebook for over $2 billion when he was just 21 years old. Luckey is the co-founder of Oculus, the virtual reality technology company that makes the Rift VR headset.

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR
Gabrielle Lurie | AFP | Getty Images
Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR

Facebook bought the company in 2014, only about three years after Luckey had built the first rough prototype of the Oculus Rift in his parents' garage in Long Beach, California. Less than a year after selling Oculus to Facebook, Forbes estimated Luckey's net worth at "well over $500 million," thanks to his Oculus stake and his haul from the sale. (Forbes' most recent estimate of Luckey's net worth put it at $730 million in 2016.)

Now 26, Luckey tells CNBC Make It that he splurged on three notable purchases after his financial windfall from Facebook. The common thread among the three splurges? Well, they're all flashy ways of getting around.

"The first thing that I did when I got a bit of money was buy a [1969 Ford] Mustang convertible," Luckey says. "Then, I bought a Tesla Model S, which I think is the best overall car made in the entire world."

This is what a Tesla Model S looks like.
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images
This is what a Tesla Model S looks like.

A new Tesla Model S, the electric automaker's popular luxury sedan, costs anywhere from $75,000 to over $135,000, depending on the package of features you choose. Meanwhile, CarGurus.com has 1969 Ford Mustang convertibles on sale for anywhere from $16,000 to nearly $33,000.

The third item Luckey splurged on required a bit more training to use than the cars. "Shortly after that, I bought a helicopter," he tells CNBC Make It. Helicopters can cost anywhere from several hundred thousand to millions of dollars.

Luckey's reason for wanting to take to the sky in his own helicopter goes back to his childhood, he says: "Growing up, I always wanted to be a helicopter pilot. I ended up not following that career path, but I figured being flown around in a private jet by somebody else is what most rich people do. Flying around yourself in a helicopter is much much cooler, so I have a lot of fun doing that."

Luckey received his student pilot's license in 2016, according to The New York Times, but he admits he's still improving his flying skills. "I wouldn't recommend that you ride with me — I'm still learning — but, that is a lot of fun," he says.

Luckey stayed on at Facebook-owned Oculus through 2017, when he left to found the defense technology startup Anduril Industries. Luckey, who faced controversy at Facebook over supporting a group that spread anti-Hillary Clinton memes, recently told CNBC that "it wasn't my choice to leave [Oculus]." Luckey's fellow Oculus co-founder, Brendan Iribe, also left Facebook this past week.

Meanwhile, when it comes to managing money, Luckey says he takes a conservative approach to investing that he learned from his grandfather. "My grandfather taught me about money, and he taught me about how to invest conservatively and preserve what you have."

For the most part, Luckey's investment strategy involves putting money into relatively low-risk index funds that spread money across various stocks and equities. "I don't try to beat the market," he says. "I just go along with it and figure that, as long as the United States economy is doing well, I will do well."

Even though he made a multimillion-dollar fortune from selling Oculus, Luckey says he doesn't put too much effort into investing his money. "I don't pretend to be a venture capitalist, or something," he says. "My goal is to make my business successful, to make my employees successful, not to spend my time turning the money I've already made into more money by investing in what other people are doing. I believe in what I'm doing more than what I believe in almost anyone else is doing, so that's where I should be investing my time."

Editor's note: This story was revised to clarify that Luckey financially supported one anti-Hillary Clinton group, according to Luckey representative Pat Shortridge.

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