Doomsday bunkers become new fad amongst billionaires

The world’s mega-rich are planning to ride out the apocalypse in luxury: Secretive doomsday bunkers are snapped up in New Zealand and remote locations – as four in 10 people believe we’re ‘living in the end times’

  • A recent Pew Research poll of more than 10,000 adults found that four-in-ten Americans feel we are living in the ‘end times’ and that doomsday is coming
  • But it isn’t just conspiracy theorists who are fearing the worst, as billionaires have been quietly building survival bunkers in remote locations for years
  • In uber-wealthy circles, it is quietly agreed that New Zealand is an ideal location to ride out Armageddon and billionaires have been snatching up land there
  • PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sam Altman said they agreed on a plan to escape to property in New Zealand in the event of a calamity
  • Technology writer Douglas Rushkoff described a secret meeting with five ‘super-wealthy guys’ who asked him how to better prepare their doomsday bunkers
  • A host of companies have sprung up to build bunkers for the world’s wealthiest

Though a recent poll found that four-in-ten Americans believe we are ‘living in the end of times,’ it’s not just the everyman who is fearing the apocalypse these days – billionaires have been prepping themselves for the apocalypse with elaborate doomsday bunkers for years.

As the world still reels from the scars of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change-driven storms lash American coastlines and flood inland cities, and Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to talk of using nuclear weapons to devastate Ukraine, a Pew Research Center survey of more than US 10,000 adults found that 39 percent called these the ‘end times.’

The world’s wealthiest are among those cautious of a coming calamity, including billionaire PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sam Altman, who have famously laid down routes in remote New Zealand with the express purpose of riding out the end of days.

For the few elite names known to have begun preparing for the end of times, there are scores who remain – likely intentionally – nameless. Technology writer Douglas Rushkoff recently described a secret meeting in the middle of an American desert in which five ‘super-wealthy guys’ grilled him on how they could better prepare their doomsday bunkers with questions like ‘How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?’

A host of companies have emerged ready to meet that demand, including Rising S, which says it has built 14 bunkers in New Zealand; Survival Condo, which converts abandoned US missile silos into survivalist underground high-rises; and the Czech based Oppidum, which offers ‘ultra-luxury’ bunkers for billionaires anywhere in the world.

A rendering of a mansion from the luxury doomsday bunker builder Oppidum. The proposed bunker is hidden beneath the gardens in front of the house

A rendering from Oppidum revealing the elaborate luxury bunker hidden beneath the mansion’s garden

PayPal founder Peter Thiel (left) and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (right) both have plans to flee to New Zealand if the apocalypse breaks out 

Google founder Larry Page holds residency in New Zealand, a country that many on the billionaire set hold as the unspoken doomsday refuge location

In a 2016 interview with The New Yorker, Altman, the 37-year-old former president of Y Combinator, mentioned that he was a doomsday prepper who was convinced a pandemic was inevitable. 

‘The other most popular scenarios would be A.I. that attacks us,’ Altman, now the CEO of OpenAI, said. ‘And nations fighting with nukes over scarce resources.’

He said in that in the event of calamity his plan was to travel to New Zealand, and there rendezvous with Peter Thiel at his property to ride things out.

‘I have guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, gas masks from the Israeli Defense Force, and a big patch of land in Big Sur I can fly to,’ he added, pointing out that he was not only well-equipped but had several locations to run to.

It is unknown how many doomsday bunkers have been built by the wealthy on New Zealand, but there have been reports of bunkers in three towns across the country

A rendering of the underground home Peter Thiel tried to build in remote New Zealand

A rending of the unique hidden home Peter Thiel was denied permission to build by governments in New Zealand

Plans that PayPal founder Peter Thiel submitted with his proposal to a partially buried home in New Zealand

Extensive plans for the home billionaire Peter Thiel tried to build into a hill in New Zealand

The extent of Thiel’s $4.7million compound in New Zealand is unclear, but the Queenstown property is known to have its own panic room.

Just this year he lost a bid to build a new property which was to be built into a remote hillside alongside Lake Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island. 

Extensive plans submitted for the building permit did not appear to show any bunker systems, but renderings showed the house was clearly meant to blend inconspicuously into the landscape. 

Thiel was denied the bid by the Queenstown-Lakes district council in August following outcry from environmentalists who said the house would ‘destroy our beautiful lake environment.’ Despite losing that bid, he was granted citizenship in 2011 after spending just 12 days in the country.

The $8.3million ‘Aristocrat’ model doomsday bunker offered by Rising S

A $1million bunker offering from Rising S which includes fifteen private bedrooms

The budget $288,000 ‘Doublewide’ doomsday bunker offered by Rising S

Workers building a Rising S doomsday bunker in an unknown location

A section of a doomsday bunker from Rising S is lowered into the ground during construction

The finishing touches being placed on a doomsday bunker from Rising S that is near completion

Thiel, like Altman, appears to be one of many billionaire doomsday ‘preppers’ who view the island nation of New Zealand as the ideal hideout for riding out a global catastrophe.

One of Thiel’s PayPal co-founders, Reid Hoffman, told The New Yorker that among the world’s wealthiest New Zealand is quietly understood to be the place to hunker down in the event of calamity.

‘Saying you’re ”buying a house in New Zealand” is kind of a ”wink, wink, say no more”,’ Hoffman said.

Rod Drury, the chief executive of the Thiel-backed New Zealand accounting software company Xero, the said American billionaires ‘treat New Zealand as a bit of a bolt-hole’.

Like Thiel, billionaire Google co-founder Larry Page holds residency in New Zealand after being granted it last year. Entrepreneur Mihai Dinulescu famously left behind a cryptocurrency startup at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and fled to New Zealand with his wife.

There are reportedly bunkers in Hamilton, Hanmer Springs and Wanaka.

An proposed interior of a Rising S luxury survival bunker. The company has numerous model tiers

A rendering of a possible Rising S survival bunker interior that features art and entertainment

A movie theater in a luxury Rising S survival bunker. In the background, a bowling alley is visible

Rising to meet the demands of the uber-wealthy are a number of companies which specialize in building luxury bunkers for those willing to pay.

Rising S, a Texas based purveyor of luxury bunkers offers an ‘Aristocrat’ model for $9.6million. That bunker comes with a swimming pool, a bowling alley, along with a ‘motor cave exit’ and ‘bullet-resistant,’ among other amenities.

And the company is thriving, especially in New Zealand – as of April 2020 it had shipped and built 10 bunkers. As of 2022, general manager Gary Lynch told it had built 14 in the country and had two more on order for delivery early next year.

Out of preserving the paramount privacy of his customers, Lynch declined to say where in the country Rising S had built bunkers. He said because the New Zealand government had recently been demanding to know who their clients were ‘we will no longer discuss even approximate locations or towns.’

The entrance to a Survival Condo bunker built inside a former US missile silo

The top section of a Survival Condo bunker built inside an old US military missile silo

A cross section of one of Survival Condos missile silo turned 75-person shelter. The company has one completed and a second in the works

The isolated landscape that hides a Survival Condo bunker. It is unclear where the location is

For those who don’t want to worry about a flight to New Zealand, Rising S will build its bunkers wherever its clients want them.

In the continental United States, the company is joined by competitors like Survival Condo, the Kansas-based company that converts former US military missile silos into luxury shelters from the kind of Armageddon their old payloads once threatened the world with.

The company was founded by former government contractor Larry Hall, who in 2008 converted a 197-foot deep silo into a 15-story luxuriously appointed bunker that could house 75 people for up to five years.

A half-floor ‘Condo suite’ – which includes ‘simulated view’ windows, among other standard luxury amenties – is offered for $1.5million. Full-floor units go for $3million. A penthouse – 3,600-square feet over two floors – goes for $4.5million.

For customers who have had it with condos in the modern era before The Great Fall, Survival Condo offers customized bunkers to be built on their private properties.

Oppidum offers survival bunkers complete with storage vaults for prized valuables

A proposal of a garage filled with valuable cars in an Oppidum super-luxury bunker 

A proposed interior of an Oppidum bunker. The company assures billionaires that their life of luxury can continue past the end of times 

The comfortable amenities offered by Oppidum in their billionaire doomsday bunkers

A proposal of a pool inside a luxury bunker offered by the Czech-based Oppidum

Even the life support systems in Oppidum bunkers are intended to be beautiful

East-coasters can consider the offerings of ‘safe haven farms,’ which operate on the philosophy that the only true way to survive the days of anarchy will be to work together.

Hidden somewhere in the Poconos Mountains towards the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border, former Latvian American chamber of commerce president JC Cole is building a series heavily fortified farm communities people can buy into for $3million.

Cole was present for the fall of the Soviet Union and its aftermath and with that insight developed the belief that the best way to rebuild society will be for localized communities that will be able to remain self-sufficient, while also being able to worj with neighboring communities that are equally sufficient.

‘The only way to protect your family is with a group,’ he told Rushkoff in The Guardian. ‘Honestly, I am less concerned about gangs with guns than the woman at the end of the driveway holding a baby and asking for food. I don’t want to be in that moral dilemma.’

A promotional video from Oppidum showing a hypothetical billionaire family entering their bunker

Hypothetical billionaires cavorting inside their doomsday bunker in an Oppidum promotional video 

Oppidum offers billionaires the ability to install a gallery for their priceless art inside their bunkers

And serving billionaires across the world wherever they’re willing to pay for it is the top-tier Oppidum, the Czech Republic-based company which stands in defiance of the notion that ‘You can’t take it with you’ – it being priceless art collections, stocks of fine wine and spirts, fleets of luxury cars, and a general lifestyle of insulated removal and security.

Oppidum offers lavish underground mega mansions intended to not only keep the world’s wealthiest and their families safe from fallout and heathen hordes, but also to protect the prized possessions they collected before cash became just paper and numbers stacked up high with zeros vanished when the servers went down.  

‘You’ve worked hard over many years, taken risks, seized opportunities, made your vision a reality,’ Oppidum’s website tells prospective customers. ‘Your reward is the means to acquire and curate all the beautiful, rare and precious objects you desire.’  

The company website shows a Versailles-like palace with a complex bunker network burrowed beneath a sprawling garden. There are images of a sleek garage lined with Teslas, G-Wagons, classic Ferraris, and a suit of samurai armor. 

In a promotional video, laughing men in suits and curled mustaches toss back brown whiskey and smoke cigars, before stopping over into an art gallery where Picassos and Mondrians hang alongside sculptures and a presumably priceless violin.

In the gallery is a bust of Pericles – the bust of Pericles – and beneath it a quote from the ancient Athenian politician:

‘Freedom is the possession of those with the courage to defend it.’

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