Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Is Now Richer Than Microsoft Founder Bill Gates

They say that the easiest way to become very wealthy is to start a company, but being a employee can sometimes yield some handsome dividends as well.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is now worth more than Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. Ballmer currently has a net worth of $157 billion, slightly ahead of his former boss Bill Gates. Ballmer is now the sixth richest man in the world, ahead of Google founders Larry and Sergey Brin, Oracle founder Larry Ellison and and Dell founder Michael Dell. Ballmer is also the only employee who’s in the list of the 10 richest people in the world.

The latest rise in Steve Ballmer’s net worth is a result of a spike in the value of Microsoft shares, which have risen 22 percent this year. Ballmer has famously held on to his Microsoft stocks, while ever since exiting Microsoft, Bill Gates has diversified his portfolio, and given away a large percentage of his wealth to charitable causes. Microsoft’s shares are up nearly 10x over the last 8 years, which has caused Ballmer’s net worth to balloon.

There wasn’t much to suggest in Steve Ballmer’s early days that he’d end up being the world’s richest employee. Ballmer had joined Microsoft in 1980 because he was friends with Microsoft founder Bill Gates at Harvard. He had been working as a brand manager at Proctor and Gamble, but was asked to join Microsoft, which at that point was a brand new startup. When Ballmer joined as Microsoft’s 20th employee, he discovered that he didn’t even have an office, and made do with space at one end of the sofa near Bill Gates’ desk.

But Ballmer didn’t mind — after spending a year at Microsoft, where he was running the company’s operating system business, he realized that Microsoft could end up being a lot more valuable than it then was. He felt that IBM no longer controlled the PC business, but Microsoft did, and this could yield the company enormous profits in the long run.

At this point, Ballmer went all-in on Microsoft — he borrowed everything he could against his Microsoft stock, stock options, and every other possession, and used every cent to buy Microsoft shares, as revealed in the book Accidental Empires by Robert Cringely. In all, Ballmer put in $50 million into the company stock. This was unconventional behavior for a business executive — most executives regularly sell their stocks to get themselves some hard cash and hedge their bets, but Ballmer kept going all-in on Microsoft through his career.

And he held on to the stock even when it had apparently plateaued. Ballmer had been the CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014, which didn’t see the stock give great returns. But even though everyone including Microsoft founder Bill Gates was selling Microsoft shares, Ballmer held on to them. As luck would have it, after Satya Nadella was appointed Microsoft CEO in 2014, Microsoft’s stock began rising, and has given incredible returns over the last decade. And from just assiduously holding on to his Microsoft shares, Ballmer is now worth $157 billion, and is one of the richest men in the world.