Steve Ballmer.REUTERS/B MathurSteve Ballmer is richer than Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin.
The former Microsoft CEO is worth $120 billion, thanks to his estimated 4% stake in the company.
Ballmer sticks out among the world's wealthiest people because he isn't a founder or a current boss.
Steve Ballmer is wealthier than Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, and the cofounders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin — even though he didn't found Microsoft and stepped down as its CEO nearly a decade ago.
Ballmer's estimated $120 billion fortune ranks him sixth on the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. He's an anomaly among the top 10 wealthiest people, who either started their flagship companies — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Zuckerberg, Brin, and Page — or still run them today — Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Buffett.
The retired Microsoft chief is many times richer than most corporate executives because of his original contract with the software giant. When he joined as its 30th employee in 1980, he negotiated a $50,000 base salary plus 10% of the profit growth he could generate as his compensation, according to Forbes.
Ballmer's cut of the profits eventually became excessive, so he agreed to give it up in exchange for a sizable equity stake. He served as Microsoft's CEO from 2000 until 2014, when he retired with 333 million shares or 4% ownership of the company, regulatory filings show.
Bloomberg estimates that Ballmer still owns a similar stake today — a position worth more than $100 billion based on Microsoft's current market capitalization of $2.6 trillion. Ballmer, who owns the LA Clippers, has likely collected more than $12 billion of dividends as well, the news outlet says.
Ballmer has benefited from the interest in artificial intelligence, which Microsoft tapped into when it plowed $10 billion into OpenAI earlier this spring. The tech titan's stock has soared 44% this year and hit a record high last week. The surge has fueled a $34 billion rise in Ballmer's net worth this year.
Berkshire Hathaway stock is also trading close to an all-time high, but Buffett has gifted more than half of his shares to the Gates Foundation and four family foundations. As a result, the Berkshire CEO's fortune stands at $118 billion — he would likely be richer than Musk, who is worth $239 billion, if he still had his full stake.
Meta shares have skyrocketed 140% this year after crashing by more than 60% last year. Zuckerberg's wealth has grown by a hefty $61 billion to reach $106 billion today, but Meta shares are still down more than 20% from their peak.
Similarly, Alphabet stock rallied 37% this year but still trades roughly 20% below its all-time high. Page and Brin have added $28 billion and $26 billion to their respective fortunes in 2023, lifting their net worths to $111 billion and $106 billion.
Ballmer's fortune has ballooned this year thanks to Microsoft stock climbing to historic highs. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg, Page, and Brin haven't seen their shares reach new heights yet, and Buffett has given away the majority of his wealth, meaning they rank lower than Ballmer on the rich list.
The former Microsoft chief trails Larry Ellison, worth $133 billion, and Bill Gates, worth $137 billion, by some distance in Bloomberg's wealth index. But as a retired CEO who isn't a founder, or a business icon like Musk or Buffett, he's surely pleased with his position.
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