Gates' money-pile now bigger than galaxy

22 June 1999

It was five years ago today... When looking at the total sum of Bill Gates' wealth we are reminded of the old Abba song. No, not Money, Money, Money, but rather SOS, which begins with the line: "Where are those happy days, they seem so hard to find..?"

The reason for our melancholy turn is the following historical wedgefest:

Gates' money-pile now bigger than galaxy

By John Lettice
Published Tuesday 22nd June 1999 09:08 GMT

Microsoft accounted for three of the top four slots in the latest Forbes list of the world's richest people, with only famous investor Warren Buffett separating the trio of Gates, Allen and Ballmer. Gates naturally heads the list, Microsoft's escalating share price having seen off a succession of former world's richest people over the years, and his estimated value of $90 billion is almost triple Buffett's paltry $36 billion. This just goes to show that although the rich aren't like you and I, his Billness doesn't real count as being like the rich any more. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, comes next with $30 billion while Steve Ballmer, in early but obviously not early enough, clocks $19.5 billion. It takes a whole family, Roche Pharmaceuticals, to account for the next slot, and even then Michael Dell, who is occasionally cruelly categorised as a Microsoft billionaire round these parts, is coming on strong behind with $16.5 billion beer tokens.


Yup, that's a lot of beer tokens. Times, though, do move on. According to Forbes, the 2004 top five comprises:

  1. William Gates III ($46.6bn)
  2. Warren Buffett, businessman ($42.9bn)
  3. Karl Albrech, supermarket chain owner ($23bn)t
  4. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, businessman ($21.5bn)
  5. Paul Allen, mate of Bill's ($21bn)

Although Gates and Buffett still occupy the top two positions, the purpose of our Abba citation becomes clear: where exactly did the rest of Bill's galaxy of cash go? Must have been that solid-gold house in Seattle, although $45bn buys an awful lot of emerald-encrusted letter-openers. Michael Dell, meanwhile, currently ranks 18 on Forbes with a paltry $13bn, narrowly pipping Steve Balmer into 19th spot with $12.4bn. ®

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