Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, the world’s biggest software maker. The Redmond, Washington-based company had revenue of $198 billion in 2022. The rest of his fortune is managed through closely held Cascade Investment, which has stakes in dozens of publicly traded companies, including Canadian National Railway, Deere and Ecolab.
The majority of Gates’s fortune is derived from Cascade Investment, a holding company that was created with the proceeds of Microsoft stock sales and dividends.
Based on an analysis of Bloomberg data, Gates has received more than $56 billion in stock and dividends from Microsoft and other companies, including a $3.3 billion payout from Microsoft in 2004, which he donated to his philanthropic foundation.
The value of Cascade is based on an analysis of asset sales and purchases, taxes and market performance. Market performance is based on a hybrid of indexes that capture sectors including hedge funds, bonds and equities. It includes the value of Cascade’s investments in closely held businesses, including real estate and energy assets. Cascade also owns stakes in dozens of public companies, which are valued individually using disclosed sharecounts.
He has about 1.4% of Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, according to the company’s website. He stepped down as a director of Microsoft in March 2020 and his stake is not disclosed in subsequent proxy statements. Shares held by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable enterprise that supports poverty eradication, medical research and education initiatives, aren’t included in his net worth calculation.
Bill and Melinda Gates announced in 2021 an intention to divorce. Company filings around the time of the announcement showed a transfer of more than $5 billion in stocks to Melinda Gates and these have been removed from this analysis. In July 2022, Gates said he would give $20 billion to his foundation, including the $15 billion he had previously pledged. At least $18.7 billion in shares was donated in the same quarter, according to company filings. A liability of $1.3 billion is included in the analysis to reflect the outstanding amount.
Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Gates, said he declined to comment on his net worth.
Education: President & Fellows of Harvard College
Born to successful parents — his father was a lawyer, his mother was president of the local United Way — Gates developed an interest in computers shortly after his admittance to Seattle’s Lakeside School.
After scoring a 1590 on his SATs (out of a possible 1600), he enrolled at Harvard University, where his Lakeside friend, Paul Allen, persuaded him to take a leave of absence to help him build an operating system for the Altair 8800, a new computer developed by Micro Instrumentation & Telemetry Systems. The result: Microsoft, now the world’s largest software maker by revenue.
In 1994, Gates married Melinda French, a Microsoft employee whom he had met seven years earlier at a press event in New York. Six years later, after his Microsoft stake topped $100 billion, Gates stepped down as the company’s chief executive and began focusing on philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He intends to give the majority of his wealth to charity, a commitment he reaffirmed by signing the Giving Pledge in 2010. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in November 2016.
- 1955 William Henry Gates III is born in Seattle.
- 1975 Gates and Allen register the name Microsoft.
- 1981 Incorporates Microsoft in the state of Washington.
- 1985 Software maker releases the first consumer version of Windows.
- 1986 Microsoft completes IPO, one day after Oracle’s public offering.
- 2000 Steps down as Microsoft chief executive officer.
- 2000 The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is established.
- 2003 Microsoft pays its first dividend.