From Assistant to Billionaire: Bill Gates’ Former Assistant, Steve Ballmer, is Now 5th Richest Person in the World

Bill Gates’ ex-assistant has raced up the list of the world’s richest individuals, and his net worth may soon surpass that of Microsoft’s world-famous founders and his former boss.

Steve Ballmer’s fortune has increased by an estimated $29 billion this year, putting him fifth on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He now lags Gates, who is fourth with $121 billion, by only $6 billion, down from $17 billion three months ago. According to the index, Ballmer is currently wealthier than Larry Ellison ($114 billion), Warren Buffett ($111 billion), Larry Page ($110 billion), Mark Zuckerberg ($108 billion), and Sergey Brin ($105 billion).

Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 as the president’s assistant, albeit he was more of a business manager than a personal assistant. According to Forbes, he initially negotiated a $50,000 base pay plus 10% of profit growth, but when his portion of earnings became too large, he decided to swap it for a sizable equity position.

Gates’ trusted counsel progressively rose through the ranks to become CEO of Microsoft in 2000. According to regulatory filings, he left that position in 2014 with 333 million shares, or a 4% ownership. Bloomberg thinks he kept the majority of those shares, giving him a position worth more than $100 billion today, based on Microsoft’s current stock price. He’s also undoubtedly received billions of dollars in dividends throughout the years.

Ballmer’s fortune has grown dramatically this year, thanks in part to the artificial-intelligence boom that has buoyed Microsoft shares. The computing behemoth’s investment in ChatGPT-parent OpenAI last spring fanned optimism that it could challenge Alphabet’s dominance in internet search, pushing Microsoft shares up 38% in the last ten months.

It’s worth noting that Ballmer is an exception among the top ten richest people on Bloomberg’s list. Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Jeff Bezos, and others owe their fortunes to stakes in firms they established or now run, but Ballmer is neither the founder nor the current CEO of Microsoft.

If he manages to outperform Gates, who has diversified his income away from Microsoft stock and donated substantial sums to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other charities, he will be a genuinely exceptional situation in which an employee outperforms his company’s founder.


Leave a Reply