Bill Gates Could Be The World's First Trillionaire If He Had 'Diamond Handed' His Microsoft Shares — He'd Be Sitting On $1.47 Trillion Today

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In the late ‘90s, amidst the frenzy of the dot-com boom, Wired magazine made a bold prediction that Bill Gates, the tech titan behind Microsoft, could soar to trillionaire status by 2005. 

The math seemed sound: Gates' stake in Microsoft, which had ballooned from $233.9 million at its IPO in 1986 to a staggering $72.2 billion by June 1999, was growing at a blistering rate of 58.2% annually. But reality took a different turn.

Rather than holding onto every Microsoft share, Gates opted for a different path. He began offloading chunks of his stake, diversifying his investment portfolio. Fast-forward to today: Microsoft's market value has surged to $3 trillion, but Gates' ownership has dwindled to a mere 1.34%.

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Had Gates maintained his original stake, his net worth would have reached unprecedented heights. Gates' original 49% stake would be worth approximately $1.47 trillion, making him the world's first trillionaire. Instead, Gates' net worth stands at an estimated $154 billion as of June 2024, according to Bloomberg. 

What seemed like a missed opportunity deserves deeper scrutiny. Was Gates overly cautious, or did he possess foresight beyond the reach of mere mortals? The answer lies in his strategic vision. Gates wasn't just a corporate magnate; he was a visionary philanthropist. In 2000, he and his then-wife Melinda established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, channeling their wealth toward tackling global issues like poverty, disease, and education inequality. Gates realized that true wealth isn't just about amassing fortunes; it's about effecting meaningful change.

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Gates understood the perils of putting all his eggs in one basket. While Microsoft had been a golden goose, diversification offered a hedge against volatility and an avenue for exponential growth. By investing in diverse assets, including Berkshire Hathaway shares, Gates positioned himself to capitalize on emerging opportunities beyond the tech realm. His close friendship and mentorship with Warren Buffett played a pivotal role in this diversification strategy. 

In 2022, Gates wanted to "fall off the list" of the world's richest individuals by donating his wealth to philanthropic causes. He stated, "I will move down and eventually off the list of the world's richest people." 

Meanwhile, Steve Ballmer, who took over as CEO of Microsoft in 2000, has seen significant growth in his net worth. Ballmer, who joined Microsoft as its first business manager in 1980, has an estimated net worth of $147 billion as of 2024. He ranks just below Gates in Bloomberg billionaire's ranking. Most of his wealth comes from his 4% stake in Microsoft and his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, which he purchased for $2 billion in 2014. Ballmer's shares in Microsoft alone are set to generate nearly $1 billion annually in dividends, as reported by CNN. 

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