The Ascension of Bill Gates’ Ex-Assistant
Surging Wealth and a Pursuit of Bill Gates
Steve Ballmer, formerly Bill Gates’ assistant, has seen an incredible surge in his wealth, positioning him to potentially overtake Microsoft’s co-founder, his former boss, in net worth.
A Rapid Accumulation of Wealth
Ballmer’s fortune has impressively grown by an estimated $29 billion this year, reaching approximately $115 billion. This remarkable ascent has secured him the fifth spot on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Significantly, he now trails Bill Gates by only $6 billion, compared to a $17 billion gap just three months ago.
Eclipsing Prominent Figures
Currently, Steve Ballmer holds a higher net worth than other notable figures such as Larry Ellison ($114 billion), Warren Buffett ($111 billion), Larry Page ($110 billion), Mark Zuckerberg ($108 billion), and Sergey Brin ($105 billion), according to the index.
From Assistant to CEO
Ballmer’s journey at Microsoft began in 1980 when he joined as the assistant to the president, though his role was closer to that of a business manager. He initially negotiated a $50,000 base salary along with 10% of the generated profit growth. However, as his share of the profits became substantial, he opted to exchange it for a substantial equity stake.
CEO and Valuable Stake
As Bill Gates’ trusted advisor, Ballmer steadily rose through the ranks and became Microsoft’s CEO in 2000. In 2014, he retired from that position with 333 million shares, amounting to a 4% stake in the company, as revealed by regulatory filings. Given Microsoft’s current stock price, these holdings are valued at over $100 billion today. Over the years, he has also likely amassed billions of dollars in dividends.
AI Boom and Wealth Surge
Ballmer’s remarkable wealth growth this year can be attributed, in part, to the artificial intelligence boom, which has propelled Microsoft’s stock. Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI, the parent company of ChatGPT, this year has sparked optimism about its potential to challenge Alphabet’s dominant position in internet search. As a result, Microsoft’s shares have surged by 38% in the past 10 months.
A Unique Position
Among the ten wealthiest individuals on Bloomberg’s rich list, Steve Ballmer is a unique outlier. Others like Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Jeff Bezos, and more have accumulated their wealth through stakes in companies they either founded or continue to lead. In contrast, Ballmer is not the founder or current CEO of Microsoft.
A Potential Milestone
Should Ballmer surpass Bill Gates in wealth, it would mark a rare instance where an employee becomes wealthier than the founder of the company. This is particularly notable as Bill Gates has diversified his wealth away from Microsoft stock and has made substantial contributions to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and various charities.