Bill Gates gives away fortune, no longer richest man, or is he?

I drove by the new campus for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Sunday afternoon, and I was absolutely dumbfounded by the magnitude of the place. The 12-acre site — rising in the shadow of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle — kind of put things into perspective in terms of how much money Seattle’s best known billionaire plans to give away to charity during his lifetime.

The Microsoft co-founder has already been doing a pretty good job of donating his fortune, supporting global health and education initiatives. And according to Reuters, that philanthropic work may cost Bill G the richest man title when Forbes comes out with its annual list of billionaires on Wednesday.

According to Reuters, Bill Gates is now worth roughly $49 billion, which would put him behind Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim. (estimated net worth of $60 billion).

However, if Gates had not given away $28 billion, the software pioneer would easily still be in the lead. And there’s another factor at work too: Microsoft’s stagnant stock price.

Gates has diminished his stake in Microsoft over the years, and now owns 7.2 percent of the company.  But even so, his Microsoft holdings are significant.

It certainly hasn’t helped Gates’ pocket book that Microsoft’s stock has lost nine percent of its value in the past 10 years.

I’ve seen Gates speak on a number of occasions and have met him once in passing. My sense is that he won’t care too much about losing the richest-man title (and actually might relish the idea).

We will be looking forward to the Forbes report on Wednesday, and reporting on its findings here on GeekWire.

We’re especially interested to see where Seattle’s other tech billionaires land, namely Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos (certainly rising up the charts) and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire, a technology news site based in Seattle.

  • http://www.royleban.com Roy Leban

    It may have taken Gates a while to realize it, but it’s obvious he knows that true wealth is not in billions in stock. He and Melinda are giving a far greater gift to their children through the Gates Foundation than they can through money. (not that the money hurts, I’d be happy with, say, 1%)

    • Anonymous

      Taken him a while? Seriously? This guy has been giving out money like this for a long long time. The gates foundation was started 17 years ago.

      • http://www.puzzazz.com Roy Leban

        Well, it did take him a while, and he’s said as much himself. At the recent United Way event (see http://www.geekwire.com/2011/bill-gates-philanthropy-howto-guide-geeks) he said it was his parents who encouraged him to build a culture of giving early at Microsoft, and that he initially thought significant giving was something he would do later (don’t take that as a direct quote, I’m going from memory).

        Bill became a billionaire in 1986, the foundation wasn’t formed until 1994, and the bulk of the gifts to the foundation happened after 2000. He used to get a lot of criticism, even after he created the foundation, that he wasn’t doing enough. He’s stepped up in a big way now and that’s what’s important.

      • http://twitter.com/topscientist Top Scientist

        Yes, seriously. You must be very young. Gates was criticized for MANY years for giving away too little.

        • http://twitter.com/AaronHawryluk Aaron Hawryluk

          And yet, nobody ever said squat about how much Steve Jobs did or didn’t donate.

          • Amaryllis

            Um, yes they did! He’s been lambasted in the new for years for his stinginess!

  • http://www.newspaceagency.com/ :::::: New Space Agency ::::::

    he must do that if he wants to run for President in 2012 or 2016 and/or win the Nobel Prize in one of the next years

    • Tony R.

      Surely, you’re joking. Remember the debacle of H. Ross Perot, leaving his supporters in the lurch just weeks before the election in 1992. I sincerely hope that Mr. Gates sticks to running his foundation, Corbis and other hobbies.

  • http://www.duncanhaley.com John Haley

    What an incredible couple. Think of the charitable donations the Gates’ leadership has inspired in others! I hope more billionaire’s do the same.

  • http://twitter.com/Nanostring Nanostring Founder

    Guys, congrats on your new venture and a nice piece on BMGF; Bill Gates is a NW hero for what he is doing for global health.

    However, how about some counter-examples? For example, OVP Venture Partners destroying the assets of another Northwest health foundation (http://nwhf.org/), while sucking on management fees and throwing lavish bashes, where “bankers and entrepreneurs sip on orange-colored “OVP-tinis” and nibble on a fabulous assortment of foods from the kitchen of [celebrity chef] Tom Douglas” (your words, http://www.wherearejohnandtodd.com/?p=340)

    • http://twitter.com/topscientist Top Scientist

      “However, how about some counter-examples? For example b;ah blah blah…”

      Possibly because the article was about Bill Gates and not EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD.

  • Palavering

    Why the possessive “billionaire’s” in the last pragraph?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the catch, we’ve fixed that.

  • Delimitaciones90

    Seems another scam like the: “feed Africa’s banks” or the “Seattle’s charity” operations.
    Now that many bad stuff had been seen about MS and the Gate’s foundation (the charity-lobbyng engine), it wouldn’t be a surprise if that money ends on another proxy company like unxsis or SCO, or Oracle?.
    Anyway, that would be great, but if they want to do things right why don’t start from beginning and start paying their taxes clear and sound?, many public schools and hospitals need a lift.

    http://techrights.org/2010/09/24/investments-as-philanthropy/

    • http://twitter.com/topscientist Top Scientist

      Wow, the half-wits are out in full force on this one.

  • Anonymous

    Nope never mind bill just found $4 billion in his other jeans he gets to keep the title.

  • BlueCollarCritic

    1) The Gates Foundation is not some Noble humanitarian operation. Funding research to create vaccines to reduce population is far from noble.

    2) The wealthy/Powerful have for a long time been operating under the banner of philanthropy to do questionable things and to protect their money from taxation.

    If you are a billionaire whose a member of the global elite and you want to fund research in population control, something Bill Gates has admitted to on video when he says ” vaccinations to reduce population”, then there’s no better choice than the Charitable Trust Foundation .

    • GoBill

      Oh F off!

      • BlueCollarCritic

        Your mastery of the art of debate is without comparison. If only the world were blessed with your skills at the time we could have prevented the holocaust and set man a path to enlighten.

        I realize it hurts, a lot, to have your imaginary world shattered, to see that the political party you’ve dedicated yourself to is nothing but one face of a hidden enemy that plays both ends against the middle however the fear and pain of truth is not justification enough to warrant continued denial. Bill Gates has donated his money to protect it from potential taxes. Supposed philanthropists have been using charitable trusts for decades to do this. With Microsoft’s financial situation on shaky ground and their ability to continually suppress this coming to an end it’s no surprise that he’s looking for ways to move as much money as he can into protected areas.

        It’s time to wake from your dream GoBill and face reality. Do a Google search on Microsoft and SEC Investigation yourself if you don’t believe me.

        We’ve never been at war with East Asia…
        We’re at War with East Asia…
        We’ve always been at war with East Asia.

        • ThereIsNoConspiracy

          Your “open mind” conspiracy worldview is just as led-by-the-nose as the ones you’re decrying. There is no conspiracy, just random greed and ignorance and mismanagement.

          • BlueCollarCritic

            “ThereIsNoConspiracy”

            Keep telling yourself that and maybe, just maybe if you say it loud enough and wish really, really hard you’ll trick yourself into believing it.

            BTW- if you really think that wealthy people don’t shelter their money in these kind of tax shelters then you’re either ignorant or desperately misguided. Yes there is random greed but there is also Conspiracy. Do you even know what the definition of Conspiracy is? I don’t mean the media fed definition of conspiracy but the actual definitions as found in a dictionary.

            AS defined in Webster’s dictionary:

            1: the act of conspiring
            2: an agreement among conspirators

            The word ‘conspire’ is a transitive verb; to plot or contrive.

            So the definition of a conspiracy is the agreement between 2 or more persons to plot or to do something.

            Do you really want to stick with the “ThereIsNoConspiracy” line? Its your choice but to do so would lower your credibility. You should at least agree that conspiracies are real but that as far as your opinion goes, neither the government nor the rich and powerful ever conspire to do anything. You’d still loose some credibility but not as much.

          • http://twitter.com/topscientist Top Scientist

            Seriously, get help.

        • Omgitszoid

          “With Microsoft’s financial situation on shaky ground”.

          Wow…..what planet do you come from? 

    • ThereIsNoConspiracy

      Whadda tard.

      • BlueCollarCritic

        “whadda tard” WOW! I’m literally left breathless. Words cannot convey how spiritually moved I am by the awesome power of your orator skills. All I can say is thank the heavens above I did not have to debate you in person.

        All hail ‘whadda tard’, leader and king of the trailer park debates.

        • http://twitter.com/topscientist Top Scientist

          Could you possibly be a bigger imbecile? ‘Tard doesn’t even begin to cover it. Vaccines to reduce the population?

          • BlueCollarCritic

            Let me guess, your posting ID ‘Top Scientist’ is a joke, an oxymoron like ‘Brightest Idiot’, right? You have yet to make any comment deserving of the title scientist let alone top scientist so I can only assume it’s meant to be a joke or you’re just hoping people will take you seriously if you go with something like ‘Top Scientist’ instead of ‘Bubbaman’.

            I however will humor you out of empathy for your learning disability. Bill Gates has been caught on video stating Population Reduction thru the use of vaccines. Now he did not say it in the “mad scientist’ way as many of you (the ones who are still in denial of what’s going on with our world and the attempt but the rich and powerful to forcibly control it) would like the rest of us to believe. He said it in a very serious and meaningful way to try and convey sympathy for the plight of third world countries. I imagine his effort was to come across sounding like it’s something that would benefit those people.

            Then again the Nazi’s told the Jews at the camps that they were merely going to be taking showers and be treated for lice. For many WW2 era Jews, reality was hard to swallow and they paid that denial with their lives. Many (not everyone) had a chance to leave Germany before the Nazis started grabbing every Jew and yet they choose to stay because they could not believe what was happening or that it could get worse. Are you willing to bet your life and that off your heirs that these rich guys really do have the best intentions for the rest of us??

          • http://profiles.google.com/adamstelle Adam Stelle

            Ohhhh man. This was the funniest comment feed I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for the Humor BlueCollarCritic! :)

          • Omgitszoid

            Well, they do call themselves “Blue Collar”.  Jealousy is a painful pill to swallow sometimes.  Gates earned every penny, and now he’s giving (essentially all of) it away.  Kinda hard to find anyone quite like that on the planet at the moment.  But I bet BlueCollarCritic has also signed on to The Pledge to give away half his/her earnings and is as generous as Gates.  No doubt.  Surely.

          • Danieldyson

            Are you seriously comparing Bill Gates to the Nazis?!! A long time ago, my father told me, “When you are debating with someone and they resort to a comparison to the Nazis, it shows two things. Firstly, they have run out of arguments to support their thesis. Second, they are either below average intelligence or otherwise they are intelligent but ignorant. Either way, walk away from them, they will never understand your enlightened point of view.”

          • Danieldyson

            Are you seriously comparing Bill Gates to the Nazis?!! A long time ago, my father told me, “When you are debating with someone and they resort to a comparison to the Nazis, it shows two things. Firstly, they have run out of arguments to support their thesis. Second, they are either below average intelligence or otherwise they are intelligent but ignorant. Either way, walk away from them, they will never understand your enlightened point of view.”

          • OhMyGawd

            Steve Jobs, is that you?!

  • Paul T. Lambert

    True wealth is not in the millions of dollars you may amass and flaunt before the world. These days it takes billions.

  • http://davidvkimball.weebly.com David V. Kimball

    Bill Gates has given a significant portion of his wealth away. Good man. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oktay-Bahceci/1544591445 Oktay Bahceci

    This is a true and genuine guy, huge respect for him. Call me when Steve Jobs even passes a look at a homeless person.

  • Anonymous

    Hey BlueCollarCritic have you look up the meaning of blue collar? -  Is a member of the working class who typically performs manual labor and earns an hourly wage because most of them are high school dropouts.  Talking about conspiracy is out of your class don’t you think!
    There are many kinds of people, the ones who are doing nothing, crawling around like maggots, and always criticize others who are factually doing noble works for mankind are the worst of all people i.e. BlueCollarCritic.  Billy Nguyen

  • Anonymous

    Hey BlueCollarCritic have you look up the meaning of blue collar? -  Is a member of the working class who typically performs manual labor and earns an hourly wage because most of them are high school dropouts.  Talking about conspiracy is out of your class don’t you think!
    There are many kinds of people, the ones who are doing nothing, crawling around like maggots, and always criticize others who are factually doing noble works for mankind are the worst of all people i.e. BlueCollarCritic.  Billy Nguyen

  • http://twitter.com/BasKoene Bas Koene

    He’s still rich in his heart

    • @manoona

      The tue difinitionof being rich is having compassion more than having a big account in the bank

  • Yknot7

    Admirable

  • Yknot7

    Admirable

  • Yknot7

    Admirable

  • Yknot7

    Admirable

  • Anonymous

    Wow, Bill looks older than I thought.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, Bill looks older than I thought.

  • http://twitter.com/superaca aca suharsya

    come onn blueColar fight them all! i havent laugh like this for a long time from reading a comment feed

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TC6PKSA7HV7NZVLV2B7CII62CE Rick Lavender

    Where is the list of the largest  billionaire contributors in modern history? My guess is that Bill and Melinda Gates top the list.

  • Bbdrvr

    Bill and Melinda Gates have donated huge amounts of money (as well as their own time) to make the world a better place. They are still mind-bogglingly wealthy, and their kids will never have to worry about money. They also have the satisfaction of knowing that they are making a positive difference in the lives of many, many people in very fundamental ways.  I suspect that the Gates’s are much happier than most of the mega-wealthy in the world.

    If the rest of the 1% had the same attitude toward life, giving back some of their good fortune instead of exploiting and feeding on the rest of the world’s population like elitist parasites, then everybody – including the mega-wealthy – would be much better off.