Fortune describes Gates who certainly wasn't as famous as he is today
Microsoft goes public and Bill Gates makes $350 million overnight. In fact, the then 30-year-old co-founder and CEO sold $1.6 million worth of stock. But the 45% of Microsoft he retained gained a market value of $350 million.
As Fortune wrote at the time in a multi-page tribute to Gates and the IPO that was considered “the deal of the year,” “money has never been very important to this freewheeling heir to one of the top families in Seattle, whose father is partner in one of the biggest law firms in the city, and the mother is a trustee at the University of Washington and an executive at Pacific Northwest Bell”.
Fortune describes Gates – who was certainly not as famous as he is today – as a nerd who deals exclusively with the business of computers, although he “acquires all kinds of knowledge with amazing ease”.
What does the still young Gates do besides dealing with Microsoft? The magazine describes him as a womanizer who drives like a lunatic, and for that he has collected a lot of calls even with the slow diesel Mercedes, which he bought on purpose, so that he could not go so fast.
How? So did Bill Gates celebrate his newfound wealth? Apparently, he made a very prudent move, which financial advisors recommend to anyone with enough money in their hands: He paid off the $150,000 mortgage he had taken out.
“There's never any incentive to stay in debt,” expert Kevin O'Leary explains to CNBC. “Life is unpredictable. What if you get laid off or have unexpected expenses? The once manageable mortgage will suddenly seem not so manageable.”
Sure, Gates ended up a billionaire, but at the time, his success was anything but guaranteed.
That's why his decision to pay off his mortgage was prudent and certainly more practical than the ones he made when he started making his first serious money.
In 1979, when Microsoft started bringing him big amounts, Gates bought a Porsche 911. “I bought something that was a little extravagant. It was used, but it was an incredible car,” he would say in an interview with Bloomberg in 2016.
Maybe it wasn't a good idea, given that Gates used to test the limits of his Porsche in the New Mexico desert, near Microsoft's then-headquarters. “Sometimes, when I wanted to think about the night, I would just go out and drive at high speeds. Fortunately, I didn't get killed while doing it,” he would later confess.
At one point, however, he ended up in jail, where he had to call his friend and business partner, Paul Allen, to get him out.
After Microsoft went public, Bill Gates' fortune skyrocketed, making him a billionaire at the age of 31 in 1987. At the time, he was the youngest person to become a billionaire. And by 1995, his fortune had reached $12.9 billion, making the then 39-year-old Gates the richest man in the world. He held this title for several years.
Today, with a fortune of 104 billion dollars, he is the 6th richest man in the world. But he has vowed to leave the billionaires' lists by donating his fortune to charity.