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When Bill Gates First Became Rich, How Did He Spend His Money?

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When Microsoft went public in March of 1986, co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, two friends from high school who bonded over their mutual love of computer science, became multi-millionaires.

Gates, then 30, remained CEO and rose to prominence as one of the richest people in the U.S. The shares he sold made him $1.6 million, and the 45 percent stake he retained gained a market value of $350 million.

The young CEO celebrated his newfound wealth by making a very sensible decision: He paid off his $150,000 mortgage, he told Fortune in 1986.

"I bought one thing that was a tiny bit of a splurge," Gates told David Rubenstein during a 2016 Bloomberg interview. "It was used, but it was an incredible car."

Gates first purchased a Porsche 911 Turbo in 1979 and rumor has it that he was pulled over quite a few times in the blue sports car. This 911 has since been auctioned off for $80,000. 

Gates didn't let the car sit around gathering dust: The CEO loved to put its speed to the test in drives around the New Mexico desert, near where Microsoft was headquartered at the time. After one particularly raucous night, he even had to call Allen to bail him out of jail, according to a Time profile from 1997.

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"Sometimes when I would want to think at night, I would just go out and drive around at high speed," Gates told Rubenstein. "Fortunately, I didn't kill myself doing that."

Gates's wealth continued to balloon after Microsoft's IPO and he became a billionaire in 1987 at age 31. At the time, he was the youngest person ever to reach the milestone. And by 1995, his fortune had grown to $12.9 billion, making the then 39-year-old the world's richest man, a title he held for years afterward.

 

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11 hours ago, Money & Finance said:

Gates first purchased a Porsche 911 Turbo in 1979 and rumor has it that he was pulled over quite a few times in the blue sports car.

So let me make sure I have this straight. Gates becomes rich when Microsoft goes public in 1986, so he pays off a mortgage and goes out and splurges on a fast car in 1979, and that helps explains the mugshot from 1977.

The mugshot is actually for an unknown offense. Gates was still trying to tie it to a "traffic" offense 20 years later, but speeding is, on its own, not an offense that one gets arrested for. If it were another kind of "trafficking" or perhaps, as one rumor had it, the theft of some construction equipment or materials, this might make more sense. It might not have been any kind of "theft" but that would have been a terrible legacy for someone often accused of the improper "borrowing" of ideas from CP/M, Unix variations, earlier versions of Basic, Xerox Alto, etc.

My first major "platform" was a Xerox Sigma 7. I was working for Honeywell, and then a company that was Wang's biggest client tied to IBM's mainframe VM. During these years Microsoft was becoming famous for trafficking in "vaporware" which was a sales trick to keep customers from switching over to other software vendors (WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, AmiPro, etc.) while Microsoft had not yet figured out how to copy the features that were gaining market share for those other products.

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Only a gazillionaire can smile and make it retroactive for his mug shot or pose as though for a Playgirl centerfold.

I think Steve the cult expert called him for triggering his BITE model, not yet having learned to distinguish BITE from BYTE.

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