Bill Gates again tops world's billionaire list

Microsoft holdings now account for just 13% of wealth

bill gates
Credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Bill Gates, co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, was the world's richest person in 2016, the fourth year in a row he has headed the list, Forbes said today.

But Gates' fortune did not rely on the Microsoft shares he held, filings with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) showed.

Forbes pegged Gates' total worth at $86.8 billion, more than $9 billion more than the next-richest person on the planet, Warren Buffet. However, in a February filing with the SEC, Gates said that he owned 174,992,934 Microsoft shares. At Monday's opening price, that portfolio would be worth approximately $11.4 billion.

That amount represented 13.1% of Gates' wealth as estimated by Forbes.

Gates has regularly sold chunks of his Microsoft holdings. For more than a decade he has sold about 80 million shares annually -- usually 20 million per quarter -- in a long-standing plan to fund the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In several transactions last month, Gates sold exactly 20 million shares for a total of $513.3 million.

As of Sept. 30, 2016, Gates owned about 2.5% of all Microsoft shares, according to another SEC filing.

But even if Gates' fortune was limited to his Microsoft holdings, he would still have appeared on Forbes's billionaire list. The $11.4 billion in Microsoft would have put the 60-year-old Gates in a tie with Lukas Walton -- an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune -- for the No. 120 spot.

At that place on the list, Gates would have edged out Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet and former CEO of Google (No. 121) and easily beaten other technology names, including Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel (No. 199), and Garrett Camp, co-founder and chairman of Uber (No. 233).

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