Bill Gates is a household name that is synonymous with über-wealth and mega-success. The principal founder of computer and software giant, Microsoft Corporation is known wide and far as one of the most famous businessmen of our time and has also become known as a philanthropist, humanitarian, investor, and author as well.
But how did the husband and father of three make his incredible fortune and lasting legacy? We're going to take it way back to the 1960's in order to best understand William Henry Gates III. Born in 1955, the now-62-year-old Gates was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. His story is not a rags-to-riches tale; his family was quite wealthy, and although his parents initially had dreams of their son following in his lawyer father's footsteps, when he expressed an interest in computers and technology at a young age, he was met with strong familial support. It was while he was attending an exclusive prep school that Gates first fell in love with computers. He spent almost every available minute of his time in the computer lab at school and things didn't change when he went off to Harvard.
Eventually, Gates decided to act upon a dream of his: to start his own computer company. Many financial experts and analysts have concluded that although Gates' company would have likely succeeded thanks to the partnerships that believed in Gates' vision, the bulk of the success (or perhaps the timeframe that the company reached its point of initial success) has largely been credited to the fact that his parents were able to help with financial support for the creation of his company.
It was in 1975 that Gates, along with Paul Allen, officially launched the company they named Microsoft which grew to become the largest PC software company in the world. While Microsoft certainly had—and still has—major competition with Apple, the company remains strong and many experts say this is thanks to the fact that Microsoft has never had any huge mistakes in the company's history. Small blips on the radar were always easily smoothed over by the company and to this day, they continue their nearly-stellar record of success.
From the point of creation of Microsoft until the moment that he stepped down from his post at the company that he started, Gates held many positions such as chairman, CEO and chief software architect. Until May 2014, Gates was also the company's largest individual shareholder. He was fully and passionately involved in running his company and put in long hours in order to help push his thriving software maker to the top. This dogged determination earned him a reputation of being one of the most well-known entrepreneurs of the PC revolution era.
However, Gates often received criticism during the time of Microsoft's climb to the top. Some attacked his business tactics which some called anti-competitive, a practice which reduces or prevents the competition in a market. Though court rulings have agreed with the anti-competitive allegations lodged at Gates, these did not seem to have an overall negative impact on Microsoft.
Gates experienced success almost right away (from the outsider's standpoint, anyhow) and his success continued to rise until he was a household name and known as one of the richest men in the world. Now that Gates does not have an active hand in overseeing the goings-on at Microsoft, less than one-fifth of his overall wealth comes from his stake in the company which is at 5 percent. Seeing that as of 2018, his net worth is at approximated at $98.2 billion despite his many philanthropic donations and projects, it is safe to say that Gates' wealth is continuing to rise immensely even without running Microsoft or having a relatively big stake in the company. This is largely due to his investment sense. The bulk of Gates' enormous wealth is tucked away in stocks as well as private equity and bonds. Gates employs Cascade Investment LLC who manage his shares of stock at AutoNation, hygiene tech company Ecolab, and Latin America beverage company FEMSA, just to name a few.
According to CNBC, Gates is happy to spread his wealth around to worthy causes. Along with his wife, Melinda, who share children Jennifer Katharine, Rory John and Phoebe Adele, the couple established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation back in 2000. This charitable effort, with an endowment of $36.4 billion, has helped many causes from research to find cures for diseases to helping women in third world countries.
Gates has also used his relationships with fellow billionaire buddies such as Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim to create joint charitable efforts. He has also teamed up with The Humane Society to fund the plant-based meat alternative company Beyond Meat due to Gates' grave concerns with climate change and industrial farm animal production. He also believes that his generosity should continue long after he is gone from this life and has provisions in his will to leave most of his money to worthy causes such as the charities that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation currently contributes to. For these reasons, Gates is considered to be the world's most generous billionaire by many.
The short answer to how Gates amassed his fortune and built a lasting legacy is thanks in part to being born into a wealthy family, determination and hard work, a passion for computers and now in his retirement, diversified investments. Not a bad life plan!