William Henry "Bill" Gates III is an American business magnate, investor, programmer, inventor and philanthropist.
Born William Henry Gates III October 28, 1955 (age 57) Seattle, WA, US
Residence Medina, WA, US
Alma mater Harvard University
Occupation Co-founder and Chairman of Microsoft, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEO of Cascade Investment, Chairman of Corbis
Years active 1975–present
Net worth Increase US$ 67 billion (2013)
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William Henry "Bill" Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, investor, programmer, inventor and philanthropist. Gates is the former chief executive and current chairman of Microsoft, the world’s largest personal-computer software company, which he co-founded alongside Paul Allen.
He is consistently ranked in the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people and was the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2009—excluding 2008, when he was ranked third; in 2011 he was the wealthiest American and the world's second wealthiest person. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires List, Gates is the world's richest person in 2013, a position that he last held on the list in 2007.
During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder, with 6.4 percent of the common stock.[a] He has also authored and co-authored several books.
Gates is one of the best-known, most-influential entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Gates has been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive, an opinion which has in some cases been upheld by the courts. In the later stages of his career, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.
Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect. In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work, and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie, chief software architect, and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer. Gates's last full-time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He remains at Microsoft as non-executive chairman.
Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, to William H. Gates, Sr. and Mary Maxwell Gates. His ancestry includes English, German, and Scots-Irish. His father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates's maternal grandfather was JW Maxwell, a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as William Gates III or "Trey" because his father had the "II" suffix. Early on in his life, Gates's parents had a law career in mind for him. When Gates was young, his family regularly attended a Congregational church.
At 13 he enrolled in the Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school. When he was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School's rummage sale to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school's students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC, and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he said, "There was just something neat about the machine." After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students—Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans—for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.
At the end of the ban, the four students offered to find bugs in CCC's software in exchange for computer time. Rather than use the system via Teletype, Gates went to CCC's offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including programs in Fortran, Lisp, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when the company went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences, Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in Cobol, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school's computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with mostly female students. He later stated that "it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success." At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. In early 1973, Bill Gates served as a congressional page in the US House of Representatives.
Gates graduated from Lakeside School in 1973. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT and enrolled at Harvard College in the autumn of 1973. While at Harvard, he met Steve Ballmer, who later succeeded Gates as CEO of Microsoft.
The Poker Room in Currier House at Harvard University, where Gates and Allen formed Microsoft
In his sophomore year, Gates devised an algorithm for pancake sorting as a solution to one of a series of unsolved problems presented in a combinatorics class by Harry Lewis, one of his professors. Gates's solution held the record as the fastest version for over thirty years; its successor is faster by only one percent. His solution was later formalized in a published paper in collaboration with Harvard computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou.
Gates did not have a definite study plan while a student at Harvard and spent a lot of time using the school's computers. Gates remained in contact with Paul Allen, and he joined him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974. The following year saw the release of the MITS Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company. Gates dropped out of Harvard at this time. He had talked this decision over with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much Gates wanted to start a company.
Bill Gates in January 2008
From Microsoft's founding in 1975 until 2006, Gates had primary responsibility for the company's product strategy. He aggressively broadened the company's range of products, and wherever Microsoft achieved a dominant position he vigorously defended it. He gained a reputation for being distant to others; as early as 1981 an industry executive complained in public that "Gates is notorious for not being reachable by phone and for not returning phone calls." Another executive recalled that after he showed Gates a videogame and defeated him 35 of 37 times, when they met again a month later Gates "won or tied every game. He had studied the game until he solved it. That is a competitor."
As an executive, Gates met regularly with Microsoft's senior managers and program managers. Firsthand accounts of these meetings describe him as verbally combative, berating managers for perceived holes in their business strategies or proposals that placed the company's long-term interests at risk.
He often interrupted presentations with such comments as, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" and, "Why don't you just give up your options and join the Peace Corps?" The target of his outburst then had to defend the proposal in detail until, hopefully, Gates was fully convinced. When subordinates appeared to be procrastinating, he was known to remark sarcastically, "I'll do it over the weekend."
Gates's role at Microsoft for most of its history was primarily a management and executive role. However, he was an active software developer in the early years, particularly on the company's programming language products. He has not officially been on a development team since working on the TRS-80 Model 100, but wrote code as late as 1989 that shipped in the company's products. On June 15, 2006, Gates announced that he would transition out of his day-to-day role over the next two years to dedicate more time to philanthropy. He divided his responsibilities between two successors, placing Ray Ozzie in charge of day-to-day management and Craig Mundie in charge of long-term product strategy.
Appearance in ads
Gates mugshot of his 1977 arrest in New Mexico
Gates appeared in a series of ads to promote Microsoft in 2008. The first commercial, co-starring Jerry Seinfeld, is a 90-second talk between strangers as Seinfeld walks up on a discount shoe store (Shoe Circus) in a mall and notices Gates buying shoes inside. The salesman is trying to sell Mr. Gates shoes that are a size too big. As Gates is buying the shoes, he holds up his discount card, which uses a slightly altered version of his own mugshot of his arrest in New Mexico in 1977 for a traffic violation. As they are walking out of the mall, Seinfeld asks Gates if he has melded his mind to other developers, after getting a yes, he then asks if they are working on a way to make computers edible, again getting a yes. Some say that this is an homage to Seinfeld's own show about "nothing" (Seinfeld). In a second commercial in the series, Gates and Seinfeld are at the home of an average family trying to fit in with normal people.
Since leaving day-to-day operations at Microsoft (where he remains Chairman, Gates continues his philanthropy and, among other projects, purchased the video rights to the Messenger Lectures series called The Character of Physical Law, given at Cornell University by Richard Feynman in 1964 and recorded by the BBC. The videos are available online to the public at Microsoft's Project Tuva.
In April 2010, Gates was invited to visit and speak at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he asked the students to take on the hard problems of the world in their futures.
Bill and Melinda Gates, June 2009
Gates married Melinda French on January 1, 1994. They have three children: daughters Jennifer Katharine (b. 1996) and Phoebe Adele (b. 2002) and son Rory John (b. 1999). The family resides in the Gates's home, an earth-sheltered house in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Medina. According to King County public records, as of 2006 the total assessed value of the property (land and house) is $125 million, and the annual property tax is $991,000.
Gates's 66,000 sq ft (6,100 m2) estate has a 60-foot (18 m) swimming pool with an underwater music system, as well as a 2,500 sq ft (230 m2) gym and a 1,000 sq ft (93 m2) dining room.
Also among Gates's private acquisitions is the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci, which Gates bought for $30.8 million at an auction in 1994. Gates is also known as an avid reader, and the ceiling of his large home library is engraved with a quotation from The Great Gatsby. He also enjoys playing bridge, tennis, and golf.
Gates was number one on the Forbes 400 list from 1993 through to 2007 and number one on Forbes list of The World's Richest People from 1995 to 2007 and 2009. In 1999, his wealth briefly surpassed $101 billion, causing the media to call Gates a "centibillionaire". Despite his wealth and extensive business travel Gates usually flew coach until 1997, when he bought a private jet. Since 2000, the nominal value of his Microsoft holdings has declined due to a fall in Microsoft's stock price after the dot-com bubble burst and the multi-billion dollar donations he has made to his charitable foundations. In a May 2006 interview, Gates commented that he wished that he were not the richest man in the world because he disliked the attention it brought. In March 2010, Gates was the second wealthiest man behind Carlos Slim, but regained the top position in 2013 according to the Bloomberg Billionaires List.
Gates has several investments outside Microsoft, which in 2006 paid him a salary of $616,667 and $350,000 bonus totalling $966,667. He founded Corbis, a digital imaging company, in 1989. In 2004 he became a director of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company headed by long-time friend Warren Buffett.
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