8 Modern-Day Tycoons Who Could Be Bond Villains

The world has a lot of billionaires—1,645, to be exact. The United States alone makes up almost 30 percent of them (492). And while nearly 500 billionaires is sizeable for a country of 310 million, only a small amount of these super-rich approach the exalted status of Bond villain. “Bond villain status,” in this case, isn’t a poke at their opportunistic ways, but rather an ode to the kind of lifestyle that billionaires should, and sometimes do, lead. (The world as a playground, kind of thing—mega-yachts, sports teams, estates, etc.)

So after much debate and analysis, we whittled the list down to eight people who could conceivably star opposite Daniel Craig in the coming years. They are all philanthropic, charismatic, and if they were truly evil, would present an enormous problem.

1. Charles Simonyi

The “software architect” of Microsoft Office dated Martha Stewart for 15 years, holds 11 incomprehensible patents, and has given $10 million dollars to the Seattle Symphony. He also spends six months every year on a 233-foot super yacht named Skat, which bears a distinct resemblance to the Disco Volante from “Thunderball.” It has a gym, helipad, jet skis, and can probably store four nuclear warheads and break apart into a speedboat.

2. Richard Branson

The consummate adventurer billionaire, Richard Branson has branded almost everything you can think of with Virgin. Starting out in the record business signing upstarts like the Sex Pistols, the 64-year-old Brandon branched into airlines, mobile phones, and trains. Besides the obvious diverse interests, the branding reminiscent of "Zorin Industries" and "Drax Metals," Branson’s swashbuckling world record attempts for flying, sailing, and driving make him a prime candidate.

Hell, the guy drove an amphibious car across the English Channel. Plus he has the hair and the accent for it. Did we mention he owns a commercial space company, Virgin Galactic? 

3. Elon Musk

This extremely young (43) executive not only possesses upwards of $9 billion, but also a South African accent, an incredible name, and the cold, good looks of Mads Mikkelsen, who played Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. If the vital statistics weren’t enough, Musk created a publicly loved product that doesn’t necessarily have profit as the chief consideration, Tesla, and is the CEO and CTO of the groundbreaking SpaceX project.

Musk also co-founded PayPal and knows what you bought on eBay. His extremely diverse portfolio also includes solar power, and a high speed method of getting people up and down the coast of California. Essentially, he is Tony Stark.

4. Paul Allen

Unlike his richer, nicer, and more boring Microsoft cohort Bill Gates, Paul Allen (who like pretty much everyone on this list is very philanthropic and probably nice) and his company, which is seriously called Vulcan Inc., owns the Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which sounds like a recipe for Skynet. He was part of the SpaceShipOne team, has a massive telescope array and, naturally, a very impressive private art collection.

This could be perfectly innocuous, but remember that he has a 414-foot yacht ("Octopus") with a submarine that he routinely loans to organizations like the Royal Navy. He hosts huge parties on it, and we can imagine 007 climbing up the anchor in scuba gear, unzipping his wetsuit to reveal a perfectly tailored midnight blue shawl tuxedo.

5. James Cameron

One of the most interesting people on this list, James Cameron took an alternate route to money, though still firmly grounded in computers and technology. He's created enormous movies, won a pair of Academy Awards, and ventured to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in a submarine. He displays erratic dictatorial behavior like nailing his crews cellphones to the wall with a nail gun if they ring. With $900 million dollars, he hasn’t made any movies in a while; instead he's been exploring and investing in Planetary Resources, Inc., a company formerly known as “Arkyd Astronautics,” which could not sound more sinister. 

6. Jeff Bezos

There was an article not long ago that described the reaction Jeff Bezos had when he heard there was an octopus on a breakfast menu. “I must have the breakfast octopus,” he was reported saying, before being told that the octopus was a huge metaphor. This is the kind of weirdness that Bond villains are famous for, and Jeff Bezos's unique brand jives perfectly with his spaceflight startup “Blue Origin”—which has interest in space hotels and colonies of three million people. (Moonraker?)

Additionally, he bought a large, nationally-read newspaper, owns Amazon, and recovered two Saturn V F-1 rocket engines from the Atlantic Ocean, and spent $42 million dollars to fund a clock that can last 10,000 years. He is a parody of the billionaire, and another triumph of what an untethered person can do. Imagine the countries he could take over with the Amazon drones if he wanted to.

7. Robert Bigelow

Owner of Budget Suites of America and Bigelow Aerospace, Bigelow grew up right near the atomic tests. Unlike the Bond villain scenario, he doesn’t have a huge mutation giving him an extremely high pain tolerance and other superhuman capabilities, but has major plans for orbiting hotels and other “space habitats.” He made a ton of money before the housing crisis and is selling NASA an inflatable pod to expand the ISS at will.

RB's also the man responsible for taking reports of the “black triangles,” slow, silent, UFO-like things out west. Maybe he made contact with them? Maybe he’s not telling us something? All we know is that he’s building space ships. That should tell you something.

8. Ross Perot, Jr

The son of the two-time Independent presidential candidate, the younger Ross is a billionaire who loves space mining, and he was the first to fly a helicopter around the world. Reports have him loving horse walking competitions, and heavy real estate. His $1.4 billion dollar fortune once owned the Dallas Mavericks before Mark Cuban and Fort Worth Alliance Airport scooped 'em up. He was in the Air Force and is building a skyscraper. He also “accidentally” discovered a bunch of natural gas and sold it for $700 million. He wears aviators, which would look great in a fistfight against Mr. Bond on the wing of a 747.

Ethan Wolff-Mann hopes to be on this list someday. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.