In shabby shape: why Bill Gates has dropped out of the top three richest Americans

The worst in 30 years is how you could describe Bill Gates' result in a new ranking of the richest Americans. Since the early 1990s, the billionaire has held either first or second place on this list, but this time he did not even make it into the top three. And there are several reasons for this

Bill Gates has been either America's richest man or the second richest man on the list for decades. That time has come to an end. For the first time since 1991, the Microsoft co-founder is no longer No. 1 or No. 2 on Forbes 400, the annual ranking of the richest people in the United States. In the last year, Gates' fortune has grown by $23 billion and is now estimated at $134 billion. But that is not enough to keep up with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla CEO Ilon Musk or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose capitals are breaking records thanks to growth in their companies' stocks. In the new ranking, Gates is in fourth place, just ahead of the trio.


The unpredictability of the stock market isn't the only reason Gates lost the second spot on the list he held last year. A substantial portion of his fortune - at least $5.7 billion in public company stock - went to his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, after they announced their divorce in May. Had his marriage and fortune survived, Gates would have been richer than Zuckerberg this year and ranked third.


 Almost a quarter of Gates's capital is accounted for by his share in Microsoft. The billionaire owns 1.3 percent of the company. That stake was worth $31 billion as of Sept. 3, when Forbes recorded the size of businessmen's fortunes for the rankings. He also owns Cascade Investment LLC, a huge $143 million estate called Xanadu in Medina, Washington. Through Cascade, Gates owns a controlling stake in the Four Seasons chain, a 14% stake in auto dealer AutoNation, shares in waste recycler Republic Services, tractor manufacturer Deere & Co., Canadian National Railway and other assets.

When Gates first appeared in the American Forbes list in 1986, Microsoft went public and Gates's 45% stake was worth $315 million. In 1987, the rapid growth of quotes allowed him to become the world's youngest billionaire. At 31 he had a fortune of $ 1.25 billion.


Material on the topic

10 Richest Americans - 2021. Forbes ranking.


Since then, he has moved only upward. In 1990, Microsoft's revenues topped $1 billion for the first time, making it the largest software vendor at the time. In 1991 Gates became the second richest man in America with $4.8 billion in assets and in 1992 he was the richest man in America with $6.3 billion.


In 2000 Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft. He still held the top spot in Forbes' U.S. ranking, but his fortune declined for the first time. Microsoft's stock plummeted because of the dot-com crash and allegations of antitrust violations by U.S. authorities. In addition, in 2000, Gates gave shares worth $20 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Up until 2017, Gates remained the richest man in America, although he gave significant sums to his foundation, which became the largest charity in the world. Gates' longtime friend Warren Buffett briefly overtook him in the spring of 2008, but by the time the Forbes 400 was published, Gates had regained the top spot. In all, from 1994 to 2020, Bill and Melinda Gates donated $36.8 billion to their foundation - mostly in the form of Microsoft stock.


In the 2018 rankings, Gates came in second place - the first time he was surpassed by Jeff Bezos. At the end of 2020, Gates was surpassed by Elon Musk - thanks to the incredible growth of Tesla stock. In August, Gates lost for the first time to Mark Zuckerberg - largely because of a stock transfer to his ex-wife.


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But the ratings of billionaires are fickle. After the list of the richest Americans 2021 was published, there was a Facebook crash, and then an investigation broke out about the social network's impact on the psychological health of teenagers, which led to a drop in Facebook stock. This put Gates back in the top three of America's richest people.


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