This is something that has always made me curious as heck. I don't really understand how corporate system works so please forgive me if the answer is extremely obvious. I realize Microsoft's history, their partnership with IBM, their enormous success etc.

But how did Bill Gates end up the world's richest man? If my understanding is correct, he didn't get money every time someone bought Microsoft's software (did he?). According to yahoo finance he now owns a considerably low part of Microsoft (http://finance.yahoo.com/q/mh?s=MSFT+Major+Holders).

So how exactly did Bill Gates actually reach his level of wealth? Did he at some point sell a large part of his shares for lots of money?

Again, please forgive me if the answer is fairly obvious.

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    Keep in mind that Bill Gates isn't the richest man in the world now. He did have the title previously.
    – JB King
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 18:54
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    Actually, for now he is back on top. Check the Bloomberg link in my answer below Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 19:06
  • Bill Gates live money counter :) worldwide-datas.com/bill-gates-money-counter
    – user12536
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 15:37
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    I have heard an anecdotal recount (from a taxi driver) in Oahu, HI, that he owns a major portion of the Waikiki waterfront. I'm sure he has a ton of other real estate holdings as well. At the end of the day, money begets money!
    – rs79
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 20:55
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    Note that shares are counted as wealth even if you don't sell them. If he had no cash whatsoever, and owned 100% of Microsoft, we'd still say he was very wealthy. To get cash he could extract dividends, give himself a salary, sell some of his shares, or take a loan with the shares as collateral. Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


Bill was the founder of Microsoft, so he did indeed have a large number of shares as the company was growing exponentially. He has previously donated a large share of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, so his fortune would be even greater were it not for the philanthropy. He is still a large holder of Microsoft stock at about $12B according to your link, but it wouldn't be wise to hold his entire fortune in one company, so he has diversified.

You can see that his investment portfolio at Cascade includes ~$28B in Televisa and ~$7B in Berkshire Hathaway. http://www.tickerspy.com/pro/Bill-Gates---Cascade-Investment

And you can keep track of whether he stays at the top by watching the bloomberg billionaires list. http://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/

  • According to Robert X. Cringely, Gates originally owned 64% of Microsoft when it was founded.
    – cjm
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 8:45
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    @cjm that may have been the arrangement with Allen initially, but it's unlikely that was the status quo at IPO. Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 19:30

Bill gates is founder of microsoft along with his friend allen.in microsoft as its vast empire increasing the wealth and enormous property of bill gates is increasing

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