Bill Gates is the world’s second richest person. His net worth is more than $93 billion [as of December 2018]. If Gates gave every single person in the world $10, he’d still have more than $20 billion left.
Gates became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire in history at age 31. Holding the title until 2008, when 23-year-old, Mark Zuckerberg, dethroned him.
Gates spends his fortune on everything from luxury cars to taking care of his favorite tree, but his primary goal is to help the world.
Bill Gates got an early start to building his fortune. At just 17, he sold his first computer program, a timetabling system, to his private high school for $4,200.
Childhood friends, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975. In 1980, Microsoft developed an operating system for IBM’s first personal computer. The system, MS-DOS, soon became one of Microsoft’s most profitable products as it would develop into what would become the operating system for nearly every PC. When Microsoft went public, the company was valued at $61 million and Gates made $1.6 million from selling shares. His remaining 45% stake in the company became worth a whopping $350 million.
At just 30 years old, Gates was already one of the wealthiest people in America. In 1990, Microsoft released another extremely successful product, Microsoft Office, which continues to be one of Microsoft’s biggest products today, 30 years after its release. And when Windows 95 launched in 1995, Gates became the world’s richest man, remaining there until Warren Buffett snagged the spot in 2008, who was knocked down by Jeff Bezos in 2017.
In 1999, at the height of the dot com boom, Bill Gates’ fortune briefly surpassed $100 billion.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Gates. In 2000, he stepped down as CEO while Microsoft was involved in an anti-trust lawsuit, filed by the Department of Justice. Following a ruling that the company had broken anti-trust law, Microsoft’s stock price dropped 14%. It took about 15 years for Microsoft to recover. But since then, the company has made strong progress.
In 2018, Microsoft hit its first $100 billion sales year and ended the year as the most valuable company passing both Apple and Amazon.
Bill Gates has actually sold or donated most of his Microsoft shares. He’s donated more than $35.8 billion of his stock at this point. He currently only owns a little more than 1% of Microsoft shares, but that 1% is estimated to be worth around $7.3 billion. So although Bill Gates might no longer be the world’s richest man, he’s still doing pretty well.
The charitable foundation that Gates and his wife, Melinda, started, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is the world’s largest private charitable foundation. It holds more than $50 billion in assets and has donated $40 billion to various global education and health initiatives over the years. In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates teamed up with Warren Buffett to create The Giving Pledge. Those who join commit to donating half of their wealth to charity.
Although Gates is definitely dedicated to philanthropy, he isn’t shy about spending his money on the things he loves, like luxury vehicles. For his first car, Gates purchased a Porsche 911. It was his first big splurge with his money from Microsoft, and not a surprising choice considering Gates’ love of speeding through the deserts of New Mexico, where Microsoft was based at the time. During the early days of Microsoft in the ’70s, Gates was known for amassing speeding tickets. He said speeding through the desert helped to clear his head and he was even arrested once resulting in this now infamous mugshot. Gates has collected a number of luxury cars over the years, including a Ferrari 348 and a Jaguar XJ6.
His love of luxury vehicles extends beyond cars. In 1997, he purchased a $21 million jet. More recently, Gates chartered a yacht for $5 million a week for a family vacation in the Mediterranean. Even more impressive, however, is Gates’ real estate portfolio. Through his personal investment firm, Cascade, Gates owns nearly half of the Four Seasons Holdings hotel chain. He also has partial ownership of the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2009, Gates bought a $9 million ranch in Wyoming that once belonged to Buffalo Bill. And in 2013, he purchased a 4.5-acre ranch in South Florida for $8.7 million. Three years later, he made headlines for purchasing three of the neighboring properties for a cool $18 million. Gates spent another $18 million on Jenny Craig’s Southern California horse ranch.
Gates famously dedicated seven years and $63 million to build a massive high tech estate in Medina, Washington which is also home to Jeff Bezos. He named his estate, Xanadu 2.0 after the home of Charles Foster Kane in “Citizen Kane.” Xanadu 2.0 is estimated to be worth around $131 million today. It’s home to $80,000 worth of computer screens hanging around the house that have the ability to display your favorite painting or photograph. Real paintings are also on display like the Winslow Homer painting Gates purchased for $36 million. There are six kitchens, seven bedrooms, 18.75 bathrooms and even a 2300 square-foot reception hall for hosting large-scale events.
The house is extremely high tech, outfitted with a sensor system that tailors to every guest’s temperature and lighting preferences via a pin that every guest receives. And thanks to speakers hidden behind wallpaper, music accompanies you into whatever room you enter. In the estate’s library, you can find a Leonardo da Vinci manuscript that Gates paid for $30 million in 1994. And, of course, Gates’ beloved luxury car collection is kept inside a custom-built garage that can fit up to 23 cars.
However, not all of Gates’ treasures are stored inside the estate. A separate 3900 square-foot building houses a 60-foot pool, that features an underwater music system. Meanwhile, Gates’ favorite tree — a 40-year-old maple by the driveway — is under surveillance 24/7 and is automatically pumped with water if it becomes too dry. For his lake shore, Gates imports sand all the way from St. Lucia every year.
Not all of Gates’ purchases are this extravagant though. He wears a $10 wristwatch because he doesn’t believe in spending a lot of money on what he wears, and reportedly has a taste for McDonald’s and Diet Coke. Gates shared that he usually drinks anywhere from three to four cans of Diet Coke a day. Gates’ frugality also extends to his children. Each of his three children will receive $10 million, which means they’re each getting less than 1.1% of their father’s total fortune. Gates has said that he wants his children to succeed on their own.
In the end, the majority of Bill Gates’ massive wealth will go to charity. When asked about his top goals during a Reddit Q&A, Gates explained that he is focused on working with his foundation to reduce childhood death and malnutrition, as well as to end polio. He also cited global warming as one of his primary concerns.
Most recently, Gates continued his tradition of reflecting on the past year online. While Gates doesn’t usually make a New Year’s resolution, for 2019, he’s committing to learning and thinking about the balance between privacy and innovation, and the use of technology in education.
After launching a successful software empire, building an enormous fortune, and battling the US government over anti-trust allegations, it seems Bill Gates ultimately intends to dedicate a large part of his wealth to fight for causes he believes in and leave behind a better world for future generations.
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