Poor Bill Gates - it's lonely at the top


Fame isn’t easy, whatever you may believe. Movie stars get stalked around the world by increasingly insensitive paparazzi, musicians are only really as good as their next video or album, and the public has an insatiable appetitive for trashy magazines that seem to take more delight in scandal, or more often rumours of scandal, than portraying celebrities as human beings.

You can argue that actors, actresses and models knowingly seek the attention, that they willingly gave up private life in exchange for fame and fortune. Still, I wonder how many stars knew exactly what they were getting into when they signed the standard "rich and famous" contract.

For musicians it’s a lot trickier these days – every musician wants to be heard, but it’s only in the last generation or so when a successful band or singer had to be seen as well to be successful. I think most of the real musicians are the ones who miss the good old days of FM radio, but the goal of selling albums remains the same.

And then there are all the other famous people in the world – people with the misfortune to be born famous, people who are famous for all the wrong reasons (e.g. Paris Hilton), and the people who are so gifted in their fields or so wealthy that they become famous.

Bill Gates, the wealthiest man in the world as well as one of the most recognizable icons of the computer age, is one of the latter. Something of a boy genius he helped to start Microsoft with his own coding, and grew the company into one of the world’s largest by being able to anticipate the needs and wants of business and consumers.

The company grew and grew, and Mr. Gates did very well for himself as the face of Microsoft. Just his presence at stockholder meetings and product launches is enough to reassure jittery investors of Microsoft’s viability, capability and vision.

Now he’s been the world’s richest man for almost 10 years running – although to be fair the bulk of his $50 billion is tied up in Microsoft stock and couldn’t safely be cashed without panicking shareholders and reducing his own worth. Less than two weeks ago Microsoft stock declined by 11 per cent after the company announced it would be investing more profits back into the company to battle rivals like Google, which in turn cost Gates about $3 billion "on paper."

In an interview with CNBC the following week Gates said he wished he wasn’t the world’s richest man.

"There’s nothing good that comes of that," he said, adding that he doesn’t like the publicity or the attention. "You get more visibility as a result of it."

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