New Zealand, home of rolling hillsides, endless sheep, and film locations for “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy, has racked up a new claim to fame.
Silicon Valley billionaires are reportedly buying property on the small island nation so that they have somewhere to flee in the event of a global catastrophe. “Buying a house in New Zealand” has become a sort of code for getting “apocalypse insurance.”
A new essay in The New Yorker digs into the ways some of the wealthiest people in America are preparing for doomsday. Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn and a notable venture capitalist, told the New Yorker he estimates more than 50% of Silicon Valley billionaires have bought some level of apocalypse insurance, like an underground bunker.
Hoffman recalled a time when he thought about visiting New Zealand, and a friend asked him if he planned to buy apocalypse insurance while he was there.
“Saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a wink, wink, say no more,” Hoffman told The New Yorker. “Once you’ve done the Masonic handshake, they will be, like, ‘Oh, you know, I have a broker who sells old ICBM silos, and they’re nuclear-hardened, and they kind of look like they would be interesting to live in.'”
Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal and a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team, became a New Zealand citizen in 2011 and owns real estate there. According to The New Zealand Herald, Thiel bought a mansion in the southern resort town of Queenstown in 2011 and a sprawling estate on the shores of Lake Wanaka — valued around $10 million — in 2015.
A real estate listing described the 477-acre property as “a most beautiful and picturesque farm,” offering “a secluded and peaceful setting.” It sounds like a nice place to wait out Armageddon, though the venture capitalist has yet to expressly name New Zealand his “backup country.”
Y Combinator president Sam Altman allegedly wants to fly to Thiel’s property in the case of a pandemic.
Tech billionaires are channeling their inner Bear Grylls for a number of reasons. Hoffman told The New Yorker that some rich people fear a backlash against Silicon Valley as artificial intelligence takes away an increasing number of jobs from humans. The CEO of a large tech company cited Russian cyberattacks as evidence of risk that the US might fall into disorder.
In response to all of this, Recode’s Kara Swisher shared a joke she heard from a techie.
“In the event of doomsday, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is I have a bunker in New Zealand. The bad news? Peter Thiel is my neighbour,” Swisher wrote.
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