Forbes has its list of rich folks out again.
It estimates Mr. Gates as being worth US$40.7 billion.
This is interesting in a bunch of ways. First off, rooting around in MSFT’s SEC filings, one sees that Bill had 651,749,668 shares, prior to the new 2-1 split. Multiply that by today’s share price, US$23.58, and adjust for the split, and one gets approx. $30.7 billion. So Forbes thinks Bill is worth $10 billion without his MSFT stock.
Another SEC filing says Bill is the holder of the single largest chunk of MSFT stock, at 11% of the total company. That’s interesting, because about 10 years ago I was able to back-calculate (given the share price and Bill’s stated worth in Forbes at the time) that Bill used to have about 33% of the stock.
The 22% difference went to the Foundation, mostly.
But you’ll notice 22% is bigger than 11%. So… Why isn’t the Foundation the biggest holder of MSFT?
The answer, I learned recently in Fortune (in a wholly unrelated article about how the Packards and the Hewletts have had very different strategies in their foundataions), is that the Foundation pretty much sold off the stock as it came in, immediately buying mostly bonds. This led to a pretty graph in the article, showing how the 10 biggest foundations have mostly tanked in the past few years, as they’ve been heavily invested in their donors’ stocks — except for the Gates Foundation, whose worth has continued to rise, to about $24 billion.
Sounds like a mostly good deal, except…
Well, except that 22% of MSFT would be worth about $60 billion today, if they’d hung on to the stock over the long haul.
Also, it means that if Bill hadn’t gotten
worried about his image serious about philanthropy, he’d currently be worth about $100 billion (90 in stock, 10 in other investments)… Even at MSFT’s present relatively low prices.