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How to Be a Billionaire, TV review: Not quite a get-rich-quick guide


The title of Channel 4's documentary How to Be a Billionaire makes the slightly irritating suggestion that a vast fortune is within all our grasps, but that pretence was soon given up.

Billionaires are a rare and elusive breed and this programme was only able to rustle up three of them to appear on camera: Russian media mogul-turned-trans-human futurist Dmitry Itskov, British Bebo founder Michael Birch and Indian entrepreneur Naveen Jain.

The easiest to relate to of the three was Hertfordshire boy Birch. He and his wife had come into $850m – in cash – overnight, after the sale of Bebo to AOL in 2008, but it took another three years before they began to feel comfortable with their sudden wealth. "It's hard to ever feel that you deserve to make a huge amount of money, in some ways," he said. "There's always an element of luck, but I think we did work to get it. You still feel a certain responsibility."

He and his wife now keep busy with a variety of charitable ventures, business investments and by building their own pub in San Francisco.

A full schedule, but still a lot less ambitious than the passion projects of our two other billionaires. Jain hopes to pioneer Moon tourism with his own space programme and Itskov is pouring his fortune into researching a way for humans to exist as immortal holograms

As for us mortals still residing on Planet Earth? In the spirit of the get-rich-quick guides that this was not, here are the bullet points. First, there's no substitute for hard work: even after making his billions, Jain won't allow himself a lie-in. Second, money can't buy you style – Mark Zuckerberg's flip-flops should have alerted you to that truism, but Birch's driving bandana was also a case in point. Third, and most importantly, there's no such thing as a crazy idea. Not if you're loaded, anyway.