Steve Ballmer joins the $100-billion club

steve ballmer 2156 1120 - Steve Ballmer joins the $100-billion club

Steve Ballmer. Image: MicrosoftPDC

One of the world’s most exclusive clubs just got a new member, with a second aspirant knocking on the door.

Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, has a net worth of more than US$100-billion, making him the ninth person in the world to reach that lofty plateau. Oracle founder Larry Ellison fell just short of making it an even 10, ending Wednesday with a fortune of $98.6-billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Ballmer, 65, who stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO in 2014 and now owns the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, has seen his wealth grow by $20.1-billion this year, while Ellison has added $18.9-billion.

A rally in tech shares has fuelled the latest surge in wealth, with seven of those above the $100-billion mark deriving their fortunes from technology companies. Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, has been among the biggest recipients of that rally and now has a record net worth of $212.1-billion.

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Together, the nine members of the club — along with Ellison — have added about $245-billion to their fortunes since the start of the year and are now collectively worth $1.36-trillion. In addition to being mostly technology chiefs, the group is also largely American, with French luxury goods mogul Bernard Arnault the only exception.

Wealth inequality

While the stock rally has boosted the fortunes of the world’s richest, it’s also renewed scrutiny of wealth inequality and taxes. Using leaked confidential tax return data, news outlet ProPublica reported last month that Bezos, Elon Musk and other top billionaires had paid little to no income tax in some years, leading to calls from US senate finance committee chairman Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and others to reexamine the tax code.

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US President Joe Biden is pushing a broad of package of tax changes that aim to force the wealthy to hand over more of their money. He wants to double the capital gains tax to a top rate of 39.6% and toughen rules governing trusts, estates, and other vehicles often used by millionaires and billionaires to reduce their tax bills.

“The persistent lack of wealth for large shares of Americans is striking,” said Kenan Fikri, director of research at Economic Innovation Group, a Washington-based think-tank started by tech entrepreneurs including Napster co-founder Sean Parker. “Markets are reaching historic highs but far too few people see any direct economic benefit from it.”  — Reported by Scott Carpenter, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP

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