Entrepreneur, visionary, philanthropist, and tech icon, Bill Gates, boasts an impressive portfolio of companies. Gates is undoubtedly one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. Beyond his much-publicized co-founding of Microsoft, Gates has made strategic investments across different sectors, further solidifying his reputation as a shrewd business mogul.
From the microchip-ridden innards of our everyday devices to the digital cosmos that is the Internet, the fingerprints of Bill Gates are everywhere.
Gates’s net worth is estimated at around $120 billion. And even though he is known for founding Microsoft, his portfolio extends far beyond the company. Gates has made his mark in sectors as diverse as energy, hospitality, and even agriculture, using his wealth to invest and establish companies across the spectrum. He’s not only a tech icon but also a global influencer with a vast array of enterprises under his control.
If you’ve ever wondered where else Gates has contributed his skills and financial resources, keep reading. This article delves into the wide-ranging business empire of Bill Gates.
Bill Gates and Cascade Investments
Cascade Investment LLC, the private investment vehicle of Bill Gates, plays a significant role in how one of the world’s wealthiest individuals manages and grows his fortune. Formed in 1995 following the significant increase in Gates’ wealth due to Microsoft’s success, Cascade Investment is known for its low-profile yet highly strategic investment decisions.
Under the stewardship of Michael Larson, who has been managing Gates’ personal wealth since the inception of Cascade, the firm has maintained a diversified investment approach. While Gates’ name is synonymous with technology, Cascade’s investments extend beyond this domain. It is all-encompassing. Investing in other sectors such as real estate, hospitality, waste management, and clean energy, among others.
Cascade’s influence also extends to real estate and land ownership. Bill Gates, through Cascade, is considered one of the largest owners of farmland in the United States. This venture underscores the firm’s diverse investment portfolio.
Despite its massive influence, Cascade is known for maintaining a remarkably low profile. The firm seldom issues public statements or reveals its investment strategies. Its investments, however, speak volumes about its philosophy: a focus on long-term value, diversity in portfolio, and a strong inclination towards sustainable and responsible business practices.
Companies Owned By Bill Gates
1. Microsoft Corporation
Gates stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO in 2000, but his legacy is indelible. His vision turned Microsoft into a tech powerhouse, whose products and services have become integral parts of our personal and professional lives.
Bill Gates, along with his friend Paul Allen, initiated a digital revolution from a modest garage in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Inspired by the release of the MITS Altair 8800, an early microcomputer, they saw the future of personal computing and seized the opportunity. Gates and Allen developed a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair, marking Microsoft’s first software product.
In the following years, Microsoft capitalized on the emerging PC market, notably providing the operating system for IBM’s first personal computer in 1981—a software famously known as MS-DOS. This pivotal partnership catapulted Microsoft into the forefront of the software industry.
In 1985 with the introduction of Windows, an operating system offering a graphical user interface and multitasking capabilities. It was a game-changer. With its user-friendly nature, Windows began to democratize personal computing.
Since then, Microsoft has become one of the world’s biggest companies. Microsoft employs more than 220,000 people worldwide. It also generates $200 billion in annual revenue as of 2022’s annual report.
2. Berkshire Hathaway
Gates’s investment in Warren Buffett’s conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, is another critical aspect of his portfolio. His faith in Buffett’s value investing strategy is evident, with Gates serving on the Berkshire Hathaway board until 2020. The conglomerate’s diverse array of holdings provides Gates with exposure to companies such as Geico, Duracell, and Dairy Queen.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett share a deep friendship and professional relationship. They first met in 1991 through Gates’ mother, and despite Gates’ initial reluctance to meet Buffett, they soon formed a bond over their shared love for business, philanthropy, and intellectual discourse.
The two are not just business associates, but also close friends. They have enjoyed numerous bridge games, family gatherings, and intellectually stimulating conversations together. In 2010, they co-founded The Giving Pledge. The Pledge urges billionaires to commit more than half their wealth to charitable causes. Buffett even pledged the majority of his fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Berkshire Hathaway is one of the most successful conglomerates in the world, generating nearly $300 billion annually as of last year.
3. Waste Management Inc.
Gates, through Cascade Investment, is the largest shareholder of Waste Management Inc., the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America. The company provides collection, transfer, disposal, and recycling services, playing a critical role in North America’s environmental services industry.
Additionally, the company has a significant focus on renewable energy production. Much like his investment in Ecolab, Gates’ involvement in Waste Management aligns with his advocacy for sustainability and environmental conservation.
This investment appears to be profitable for Gates, as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust also owns a large stake in the company. It is estimated that the trust holds a $5.6 billion stake in Waste Management.
4. Canadian National Railway
The Canadian National Railway is another significant Gates-owned company. Recognized as the only transcontinental railway company in North America, it holds strategic importance in connecting the continent’s supply chains. Gates’s investment in this company reflects his belief in the long-term relevance and profitability of the freight and logistics industry.
The company generates around $17 billion CAD annually.
5. Deere & Company
Gates is also the largest individual shareholder in Deere & Company, more commonly known as John Deere. This company is renowned for manufacturing top-tier machinery used in agriculture, construction, and forestry. This investment further signifies Gates’s vision of backing companies with an enduring global demand.
Although John Deere is widely respected for offering quality agricultural machinery, the company has not been without its controversies. For years John Deere was criticized for being impossible to be serviced or repaired by owners or third parties. This was because only John Deere had access to the computer code required to make repairs and to accept non-John-Deere replacement parts.
Eventually, in February 2022, the US Senate introduced a bill to allow farmers to perform their own repairs. On January 9, 2023, John Deere agreed to allow its US customers to fix their own equipment
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also owns nearly 2% of the company.
6. Ecolab Inc.
Ecolab Inc. is a global leader in water, hygiene, and infection prevention solutions and services. The company, headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, serves numerous industries such as healthcare, hospitality, and food services. His investments underscore his faith in Ecolab’s commitment to sustainability and efficient resource utilization.
However, Gates does not have a managerial or decision-making role in the company. His involvement is purely at an investment level, aiming to promote companies with sustainable practices.
7. Republic Services Inc.
In addition to Waste Management, Gates holds a significant stake in another waste disposal company, Republic Services. The company is the second-largest provider of non-hazardous solid waste collection in the United States, which further emphasizes Gates’s investments in environmental solutions.
Republic Services owns or operates 195 active landfills and owns or operates 90 recycling centers. All of these facilities generate revenue through the processing and sale of old corrugated aluminum, cardboard, glass, old newspaper, and other materials.
One of the reasons why Gates choose to be a part of this company is due to its progression to eco-friendly practices. The company invested $29 million in solar projects at some of its landfills and other locations in 2017. Republic is also involved in landfill gas to energy. This is a method of using landfill gas (LFG) to generate energy and reduce methane emissions.
As of the last fiscal year, Republic Services generated $13.1 billion in revenue and has total assets of $29 billion.
8. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Gates, in a joint venture with Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, owns a controlling stake in Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The high-end luxury hotel chain has properties in more than 40 countries, adding a hospitality component to Gates’s extensive investment portfolio.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is a leading luxury hospitality company. It is known for its commitment to quality and service and operates over 100 properties worldwide. Cascade jointly owns the company with Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company. Gates’ investment in Four Seasons reflects his diversified portfolio strategy, which extends beyond technology and environmental sustainability.
The company is privately held, and specific financial information like revenue and net income are not publicly disclosed. However, due to owning 111 hotels worldwide, the company holds a significant market share in the luxury hospitality segment.
Bill Gates, through Cascade Investment LLC, his personal investment vehicle, has held a significant stake in AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in the United States. Cascade Investment is the largest shareholder of AutoNation, owning over 15% of the company. However, it’s important to note that while Gates has a substantial financial interest in AutoNation, he does not hold an operational role in the company.
His involvement is strictly as an investor. Gates’ investment in AutoNation appears to align with his broader investment strategy, which involves placing funds in stable, high-performing companies across various sectors.
As of last year, AutoNation reported revenue of approximately $25.8 billion.
10. Strategic Investment in Start-ups
In addition to the established companies mentioned above, Gates is also known for making strategic investments in promising start-ups. These are done through his venture capital firm, Gates Ventures. The firm focuses on a wide array of sectors, including biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and clean energy.
Bill Gates’s investment portfolio extends well beyond the tech industry. His diverse holdings reflect a well-rounded approach to investment and a long-term view of global economic trends. From waste management to high-end luxury resorts, from rail transport to revolutionary start-ups, Gates’s investments continue to impact numerous sectors and industries, much like the man himself. Through these companies, Gates is not just securing his financial legacy, but also influencing the direction of industries and technologies, contributing to global development and progress.
Photo Credit: John Deere under CC