If it costs $25.3 billion to be Santa, who could afford it?

A few weeks ago, I got an email from an English public relations strategist pointing me to the website of the United Kingdom’s “leading independent online florist” 

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The idea is that they did a “study” about how much it would cost to be Santa Claus (short answer: $25.3 billion) and I’m supposed to write something fun about that and you’re supposed to click the link to the study itself and end up on www.serenataflowers.com and decide to buy flowers for all your friends in England.

But a question came up. No, not why are they making their pitch to a guy in Texas who writes about puking snakeseating bugs and Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic (though that is also a valid question).

The question is, if it DID cost $25.3 billion to be Santa Claus, who COULD be Santa Claus? It seems that kind of financial requirement would narrow the list down quite a bit.

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Right down to 29 people, as it turns out.

Looking at the Forbes list of billionaires, only the top 28 in the world have more than $25.3 billion (the children of the man who created the German supermarket giant Aldi share the No. 24 spot, if you’re wondering how we came to the number 29). 

Let’s narrow down who could be Santa Claus.

RULE NO. 1: Being Santa Claus for one year can’t wipe you out. Let’s say you need to have $12.5 billion left over to get you halfway to next Christmas. So you need at least $37.8 billion to make the cut.

That eliminates: Phil Knight (seemed like a contender), John Mars, Jacqueline Mars, David Thomson, Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr., Jack Ma (Christmas is big in China), Jorge Paulo Lemann, Steve Ballmer, Sheldon Adelson (perhaps a GOP Santa Claus), Li Ka-shing, Wang Jianlin and Wal-Mart heirs Alice, Jim and S. Robson Walton.

That leaves: Liliane Bettencourt, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Bernard Arnault, Michael Bloomberg, David Koch, Charles Koch, Larry Ellison, Carlos Slim Helu, Mark Zuckerberg, Amancio Ortega, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

RULE NO. 2: Santa Claus has a long history and obviously has been wealthy for a good while. You have to have made the Forbes billionaire list 25 years ago … in 1992.

That eliminates: Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Bernard Arnault, Michael Bloomberg (perhaps a Democrat Santa Claus), Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Amancio Ortega and Jeff Bezos (a natural at shipping logistics).

That leaves: Liliane Bettencourt, David Koch, Charles Koch, Carlos Slim Helu, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

RULE No. 3: You have to still be alive.

That eliminates: Liliane Bettencourt (the makeup heiress died this year after making the list)

That leaves: David Koch, Charles Koch, Carlos Slim Helu, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

RULE No. 4: Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and he is not a climate change skeptic. I mean, c’mon, he can see the effects of global warming right out of his workshop.

That eliminates: David Koch, Charles Koch

That leaves: Carlos Slim Helu, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

We’re down to our final three: Carlos Slim Helu doesn’t use a computer and keeps track of his businesses in detailed notebooks (he’s making a list, checking it twice?).  And Warren Buffett has a lengthy and impressive commitment to philanthropy.

But Bill Gates? He’s already been working at being Santa. This CNN story reveals that Gates has been participating in Reddit's Secret Santa Gift exchange for at least half a decade. Not only that, but as No. 1 on Forbes’ list, he’s got the money to keep this Santa thing going for quite a while.

I’m calling it. If being Santa Claus requires $25.3 billion, then Santa Claus has to be Bill Gates.

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