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Gates could have zero stake in Microsoft in four years

Founder continues share sale; Ballmer now largest individual stakeholder

Gates founded Microsoft in 1975 with school friend Paul Allen.
Gates founded Microsoft in 1975 with school friend Paul Allen.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will entirely divest himself of shares in the company if he continues selling stock at the same rate.

Gates founded Microsoft in 1975 with school friend Paul Allen, and built it into the world's most valuable company by 1999, worth an inflation-adjusted $851bn. Today the company is worth just $328bn.When Microsoft went public in 1986, Gates owned 49% of the stock but has been systematically selling off shares at the rate of 80m a year as part of a pre-arranged plan.

Gates handed over the chief executive position to Ballmer in 2000. Ballmer kept his stock after resigning as CEO in February this year and now owns a greater stake in the company than Gates after the founder's sale of shares this week. Ballmer is now Microsoft's largest individual shareholder.

Gates remains a member of the board and serves as technology adviser to current CEO Satya Nadella. The majority of Gates' time is now spent on charity work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.