The famous former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is officially a centibillionaire, making him one of the richest people in the world. As of 2024, Microsoft’s stock has continuously risen for most of the past decade, with a single major correction in 2021 and 2022, making Steve Ballmer’s net worth skyrocket to over $125 billion – and it hasn’t stopped growing yet.

While the bulk of Ballmer’s fortune comes from his Microsoft stock, his life story extends far beyond his time there. The famous American businessman is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team in the NBA, as well as the co-founder of a massive philanthropic investment company.

As his net worth grows, Bill Gates’ former assistant may soon overtake his former boss in wealth. In this article, we’ll tell you how Ballmer worked his way into becoming the CEO of the world’s biggest software company and how he built such a tremendous net worth.

Steve Ballmer’s Net Worth Breakdown:

Steve Ballmer joined Microsoft as the company’s 30th employee back in 1980. Over the years, and especially in the back end of 2023, he has seen his fortune grow at an astounding pace. At one point, he held the spot as the fifth richest person in the world; today, he holds the sixth spot, standing in the ranks of Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. For such a wealthy man, it’s impossible to pinpoint every source of wealth or investment. Nevertheless, we were able to unearth enough solid information to build a comprehensive breakdown of his riches.

Asset or Income Source Contribution to Net Worth
Microsoft initial base salary $50,000 and 10% profit growth
Microsoft CEO salary $1.3 million
Microsoft stock sales $3.4 billion
Microsoft share value, 333 million shares $100 billion
Microsoft dividends $12 billion
LA Clippers current value $4 billion
LA Clippers purchase cost -$2 billion
Real estate $420+ million
Car collection $500,000+
Total Net Worth $125 billion

The Early Life of Steven Anthony Ballmer

Steven Anthony Ballmer was born on March 24, 1956, in Detroit, Michigan to father Frederic Henry Ballmer, a Ford Motor manager, and mother Beatrice Dworkin. Steven’s father emigrated from Zuchwill, Switzerland back in 1948 and married the daughter of Samuel Dworkin, a Russian Jew who had fled to the US in 1914.

Steve Ballmer spent most of his childhood in the affluent community of Farmington Hills, Michigan (a major Detroit suburb). Between 1964 and 1967, he lived in Brussels and studied at the International School of Brussels.

After high school, he enrolled in a college prep program at Lawrence Technological University. He graduated from Detroit Country Day School as valedictorian with a score of 790 on the SAT’s math section and was named a National Merit Scholar. Soon enough, Ballmer became a member of his school’s board of directors.

After these educational successes, Ballmer attended Harvard University where he managed the Harvard Crimson football team. He also worked on The Harvard Crimson and the Harvard Advocate newspapers and was a member of the Fox Club while at Harvard.

At this time, Ballmer lived down the hall from Bill Gates when Microsoft’s co-founder was a sophomore. Even though Ballmer was a year ahead of Gates, they quickly became friends because of their shared interests in computing and mathematics.

It was this friendship that gave Steve Ballmer the opportunity of a lifetime later on – to join Microsoft at the ground level.

steve balmer bill gates
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Ballmer was the first in his family to get a college degree. He competed in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition and had a higher score than his friend Bill Gates. Not long after, Gates dropped out of school and founded Microsoft, while Ballmer remained to complete his education.

In 1977, Ballmer graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in applied mathematics and economics and almost immediately landed a job as an assistant product manager at Procter & Gamble.

He worked at Procter & Gamble for two years before he enrolled in Stanford Business School for his MBA. However, he decided to drop out of Stanford in 1980 and join Microsoft, a decision that transformed his life.

Steve Ballmer Net Worth: Climbing from Business Manager to CEO of Microsoft

Ballmer dropped out of school to join his friend Gates in his business. On June 11, 1980, he became the 30th employee of the company, taking the role of its first business manager.

This decision marks the beginning of a highly successful career.

Beginnings in Microsoft

When Ballmer joined the company, he was offered a salary of $50,000 in addition to up to 10% of the company’s profits. A year after he was employed, he owned 8% of Microsoft.

In 2003 he sold 39.3 million Microsoft shares worth around $955 million, which reduced his ownership to 4%. If he had kept these shares until today he would be the richest person on the planet by nearly $30 billion, beating out Elon Musk and Bernard Arnault.

In his first two decades at the company, Ballmer headed several Microsoft divisions including operating systems development, sales and support, and operations. His success in the business manager role was so clear that Microsoft promoted him to Executive Vice President for Sales and Support in 1992, followed by his promotion to President of Microsoft in 1998.

One of his most notable achievements for the company in this period was the development of the .NET Framework. When Microsoft promoted him to President, he became the de facto number two after his friend, the then-CEO Bill Gates. His presentation has since gone viral because of his immense excitement over the project (and lots of sweat stains), spawning thousands of jokes insinuating cocaine use.

Becoming the CEO of Microsoft

Ballmer’s career at Microsoft was long, successful, and influential, eventually leading him to the CEO position. On January 13, 2000, Steve Ballmer was officially named the chief executive officer of Microsoft and by February 2001, he shed the title of the company’s president.

In his role as the company’s CEO, Ballmer handled daily operations and finances alongside Bill Gates. Gates remained chairman of the board and remained the chief software architect for several years after appointing his friend to the CEO role.

However, in 2006, Gates decided to step down as chief software architect and solely retained his chairman position, giving Ballmer more autonomy to make major management changes at the company. He left his full-time role at the company in 2008.

When Steve Ballmer became the Microsoft CEO, the company was in the midst of an antitrust lawsuit brought on by 20 states and the US government, not to mention several class-action lawsuits from its rival companies. To everyone’s surprise, Ballmer shared that he would be settling these claims and lawsuits, stating the following:

 Being the object of a lawsuit, effectively, or a complaint from your government is a very awkward, uncomfortable position to be in. It just has all downside.

He continued, “People assume if the government brought a complaint that there’s really a problem, your ability to say we’re a good, proper, moral place is tough. It’s actually tough, even though you feel that way about yourselves.”

His approach as the Microsoft CEO was very different from that of Bill Gates. For instance, he didn’t approve numerous products to follow trends. Instead, he required detailed business plans and justification and significantly limited the release of new products.

That’s not the only change he made in Microsoft. Ballmer chose to replace most major division heads and made important acquisitions such as buying Skype for $8.5 billion in May 2011.

steve ballmer skype
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One of his most consequential decisions as CEO was to hire B. Kevin Turner, the President and CEO of Sam’s Club as Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer. He hired him to lead the company’s marketing and sales and instill more discipline in operation.

Ballmer’s tenure as CEO helped make the company’s revenue skyrocket. While the share price had stagnated for quite some time, Microsoft’s annual revenue jumped from $25 to $70 billion and its net income increased by 215%. At the time, Microsoft had a gross profit of 75 cents on every dollar in sales, double that of IBM or Google.

Ballmer’s fortune was created thanks to his business acumen. He maintained the profitability of Windows and Office and all of its franchises and fended off threats from major competitors like Google Docs and Linux. Not to mention, he also built a plethora of other businesses for Microsoft, such as Xbox and Skype.

During his tenure, Ballmer constructed Enterprise Business, a $20 billion company consisting of fresh products like the SQL Server, SharePoint, Windows Server, Dynamics CRM, and Exchange.

Stepping Down as Microsoft’s CEO

In August 2013, Ballmer announced that he would be retiring as Microsoft’s CEO within a year. In February of the following year, he was replaced by Satya Nadella.

Even though for the most part, the former CEO had a successful tenure as the company’s CEO, he also attracted criticism for some of his choices. He decided not to capitalize on consumer technologies, so Microsoft eventually had to play catch-up in important areas such as smartphones and tablet computing (both of which it still struggles with).

All the external criticism convinced the hedge fund manager David Einhorn to call on Ballmer to step down as the company’s CEO, saying that he “steered Microsoft out of some of the fastest growing and most lucrative tech markets”.

Ballmer’s resignation prompted a relationship breakdown with Bill Gates. Gates didn’t support his push into the hardware business and, when Steve Ballmer announced his resignation, the two friends “drifted apart“.

Steve Ballmer Net Worth: Microsoft Stake Explained

The vast majority of Ballmer’s fortune comes from his 333.3 million shares of Microsoft stock. Over the years, he has sold $3.4 billion worth of stock, and collected over $12 billion from dividends according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In 2023 alone, Ballmer collected $1 billion in dividends after the company announced an increase of $3 per share.

Ballmer reportedly has 4% of the total outstanding shares in Microsoft, making him the company’s largest individual shareholder. In comparison, the co-founder Bill Gates owns only 1.3% of Microsoft, which is why the former CEO Ballmer might soon surpass him in terms of net worth.

As for his salary payments, during his tenure as the company’s CEO, Ballmer earned around $1.3 million as a base salary plus a cash bonus.

Philanthropy

Steve Ballmer has become a tremendously impactful philanthropist since he left Microsoft. He and his wife Connie founded The Ballmer Group Company in 2015, an organization that funds economic endeavors and focuses on national impact, climate change, community support, and data and technology development, among other causes.

steve ballmer and wife
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In 2022, the University of Oregon used a $425 million donation from Ballmer and his wife to launch The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health.

This wasn’t the first donation to Ballmer’s former school. In November 2014, Ballmer and his wife Connie donated $50 million to the university, funds that went toward the school’s $2 billion fundraising effort for scholarships and external communications.

He also donated to his alma mater Harvard University. In 2014, the family donated around $60 million to the university’s computer science department.

In 2022, the Ballmers announced that they plan to invest $400 million with organizations that help Black-owned businesses including Fairview Capital, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and GCM Grosvenor.

What Else Has Steve Ballmer Invested In?

Steve Ballmer might have earned most of his billions from his stake in Microsoft, but that’s not everything that contributes to his net worth. The American businessman is also an investor having spent billions in investments like the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team or his 4% stake in Twitter. Let’s see what he’s invested in and bought over the years.

Businesses and Investments

In 2014, after he left his position at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer spent $2 billion to buy the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. The team, previously owned by the Sterling family, sold for a record price for an NBA team at the time.

This turned out to be a fantastic investment, even though the team has mostly performed worse than it did in its 2014 season ever since. Today, his investment in the Los Angeles Clippers has at least doubled, with the team valued at over $4 billion.

steve ballmer la clippers
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After he retired from Microsoft, Steve Ballmer acquired a 4% stake in Twitter Inc., giving him a bigger holding than the company’s newest CEO, Jack Dorsey. He went on to sell his stake, saying in May 2018 that he had cashed out in the previous high, meaning he sold at around $33-35 per share.

A year later, he joined forces with Brandt Vaughan and founded USAFacts Institute.

“USAFacts provides a data-driven portrait of the American population, US government’s finances, and government’s impact on society, using government data.” – says the Institute’s website.

Finally, in addition to his Microsoft role, Ballmer spent some time as the director of Accenture Ltd. and a general partner of Accenture SCA. His salary at the company was not publicly disclosed.

Real Estate

Back in 1987, Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie Ballmer bought their first property in the Seattle area, worth around $1.3 million. This property was worth over $12 million in 2020, and it is worth even more today.

In 2020, Ballmer bought a Washington property in Hunts Point for $9.8 million. That same year, he bought the Forum for $400 million in Inglewood. The Forum was the former home of the LA Lakers before they moved to the Staples Center. Then, he invested over $1 billion to construct an 18,000-seat stadium with all the latest features in the Forum, which is scheduled for completion sometime in 2024.

Car Collection

Steve Ballmer has been seen driving many vehicles over the years, including his inexpensive Ford Fusion worth less than $30,000. Other cars in his collection include:

  • Mercedes-Benz GLS worth around $80,000
  • Rolls-Royce Wraith worth around $350,000
  • BMW X5 M worth around $120,000

What Can We Learn From Steve Ballmer’s Story?

Steve Ballmer’s story is chock full of valuable lessons, especially from his time at Microsoft. Even though he started as Bill Gates’ assistant, his hard work and incredible passion for the company helped him thrive in the company and rise the corporate ladder in only a few years. In 2000, Ballmer replaced Gates as the company’s CEO, demonstrating a knack for business and great talent.

Microsoft made some of its most profitable acquisitions during his tenure, such as the Nokia mobile phone business and Skype. Acquisitions can be a very powerful tool for growth as long as they align with the company’s overall strategy and are integrated effectively.

During Ballmer’s tenure, Microsoft faced increasing competition from companies like Apple and Google. The technology industry, like most other fields, is incredibly dynamic, which forces you to be able to adapt to new trends and technologies to see real success.

Ballmer doubled profits for the business in the first years of his tenure as Microsoft’s CEO, but he missed out on significant trends, too, such as the rise of smartphones, the shift to cloud computing, and more. This shows the immense value of watching new and emerging trends in your industry closely so you can be the first to take advantage of them.

Even so, many remember his work as incredibly energetic and passionate. It is undeniable that the business blossomed while he was at the helm, and that the dynamic leader made some very smart moves during his time as its CEO.

Since stepping down as CEO, Ballmer has been actively involved in philanthropy, demonstrating his commitment to giving back to society. Ballmer knows that it’s important to help others, especially if you have the power, both financial and influential, to do so.