WHO in the developed world hasn’t heard of Bill Gates and his giant computer software company, Microsoft?
An American magnate and philosopher, Gates, (born October 28th. 1955) is the former chief executive and current chairman of Microsoft, the world’s largest personal‐ computer software company, which he co‐founded with Paul Allen.
Days before his 32nd birthday he was declared a self‐made billionaire. He is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people, and was the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2009, excluding 2008 (just a blip!).
During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect and he is still the largest individual shareholder. He has also written several books. Gates is one of the best‐known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution, though his business techniques have frequently been criticised as anti‐ competitive, sometimes an opinion upheld by the courts.
In the later stages of his career, he has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavours, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs, through the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation established in 2000. (for more on this, see below) Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chair‐ man and created the position of chief software architect. In June 2006, he announced that he would be working part‐time for Microsoft and dedicating most of his time to the Foundation.
He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie, chief software architect, and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer. His last full‐time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He remains as non‐executive chairman.
He has been widely recognised as a major force in the modern world of philanthropy.
Times Magazine named Gates as one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th. Century and named Bill and Melinda Gates jointly with Bono as the 2005 Persons of the Year for their humanitarian efforts.
In 2006 he was voted eighth in the list of Heroes of our Time, and was included in the Sunday Times Power List in 1999. He was recognised as CEO of the Year by the Chief Executive Officers Magazine in 1994, and in 1998 was declared Number One in the Top 50 Cyber Elite by Time
Magazine. The Guardian in 2001 ranked him in the world’s 100 most influential people.
So where does a couple go when they have achieved all that can be achieved?
Bill and Melissa Gates set out to change the world by some of the most generous philanthropy ever known.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
In 2000, Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda com‐ bined three family foundations into one to create the charitable Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the largest transparently operated charitable foundation in the world. The foundation allows benefactors access to information regarding how its money is being spent, unlike some other major charitable organisations.
Bill Gates was lucky enough to meet David Rockefeller several times, and this had a major influence on his attitude to philanthropy.
Bill and Melinda modelled their giving some‐ what on the Rockefeller Family’s focus, particu‐ larly aiming at those global problems that are often ignored by governments and other large organisations.
By 2007, Bill and Melinda were the second‐ most generous philanthropists in America, having given over $28 billion to charity.
Eventually their intention is to give
95% of their wealth to charity.
Though its aims are admirable, the means they employ have not always pleased onlookers. They have earned criticism because of the way they invest in assets that have not yet been distributed. Claims that they were not sufficiently critical of those companies with whom they invested, simply seeking the best return on their investments, have been many.
Sometimes it was felt that the companies with whom they had invested had worsened poverty in the very countries where the Foundation sought to relieve poverty.
These include companies that pollute heavily, and pharmaceutical companies that do not sell into the developing world.
In 2007, press criticism apparently forced the Foundation to review its investment policy to assess social responsibility. However, whether or not the review took place, maximum return for investment continued to be its aim, while using voting rights to influence company practices.
The Gates Millennium Scholars program has been criticized for its exclusion of Caucasian students.
Melinda urged people to learn a lesson from the philanthropic efforts of the Salwen family, which had sold its home and given away half of its value, as detailed in The Power of Half.
Gates and his wife invited Joan Salwen to Seattle to speak about what the family had done, and on December 9, 2010, Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s CEO) signed a promise they called the ‘Gates‐ Buffett Giving Pledge’ in which they promised to donate to charity at least half of their wealth, over the course of time.
Bill and Melinda Gates are a major force in philanthropic circles, and their generosity is something it would be difficult to criticise.
Long may their Foundation continue to make a difference in the world.