William Henry Gates III, who will celebrate his 40th birthday this year, is co-founder and CEO of Microsoft Corporation, one of the largest software firms in America, and creators of the DOS and Windows operating systems. His personal net worth is estimated to be some $9 billion dollars.
"America's greatest strength is its entrepreneurship and its technology", Gates said at his press conference. "Its greatest weakness, unfortunately, is its financial management. The same strengths that helped me to make Microsoft the technology leader that it is, as well as the financial success that it is, I can put to use for America, and make this country the financial and technical leader of the world. What we did for Microsoft we can do for America!"
Microsoft, it should be noted, is under investigation by the Department of Justice for possible anti-trust violations.
At first glance, the run would be reminiscent of Ross Perot's failed bid in the 1992 elections. Although both are multi-billionaires who made their fortune in the computer industry, it is there that the similarity ends. Gates has none of the folksy charm of Perot's that captivated many Perot supporters. To the contrary, he is a very well educated individual, and extremely shrewd. Some would call him ruthless. He does not brook mediocrity, and has been known to go to extremes to get what he wants.
Still, he has been enormously successful in his captaincy of Microsoft. In the right place at the right time, and smart enough to take advantage of it, Gates has ridden the microcomputer wave to his current position at the forefront of the software industry.
Worth some three times what Perot was worth at the time of Perot's candidacy, Gates has more than ample resources to fund his bid for the Presidency. Unlike Perot, however, no one seems likely to dismiss Gates as quickly. "That's because unlike Ross, Bill Gates is the one guy capable of actually running the country like he runs Microsoft", stated one White House observer. "It wouldn't surprise me if he had us turn a profit".
"Bill Gates has created a multinational corporation in the 1990's, and is used to dealing with countries such as Japan on an economic level, and knows just what economic power can do. Under no circumstances should he be underestimated," the source was quoted.
Indeed, the differences between Gates and Perot are as great as, if not greater than, the similarities. A billionaire by the time he was 30, Gates is the son of a prominent Seattle lawyer. Exposed to computers at an early age, Gates dropped out of Harvard in favor of building Microsoft as a company.
The greatest difference, though, between Gates and Perot, or any other candidate for that matter, is his announcement is not for the 1996 running season but for that of the year 2000.
Computer industry analysts, however, note that such an announcement is perfectly normal for Gates. Andrew Schulman, noted industry author and Microsoft observer, commented, "Bill Gates, through Microsoft, has often pre-announced product with the effect of discouraging development of competitive products. It doesn't surprise me in the least that he would pre-announce his candidacy. This should be interesting."
The pre-announcement may in fact be a necessary step to preparing the industry for a Microsoft without Bill Gates. Such a thought, however, has come up before. Gates has over the last few years given indications that he would be retiring, most likely within the next ten years, and will be donating the bulk of his wealth and financial holdings to charities.
Were Gates to succeed in his bid for President in the year 2000, he would need to be divested of any active position in his corporation and any of its subsidiaries. If he truly has been planning on retiring anyway, this would not cause as much of a problem as might be expected.
What Gates might do when in the White House he did share a little of. "The world in the next six years will be very different, and I plan to take the White House and the government full speed into the 21st century. We can go beyond town meetings to virtual World Meetings, using popular online arenas such as the Internet and Microsoft Exchange. It ought to be possible for everyone to be kept up to date on whatever subject they want to follow in their government. They ought to be able to use popular products like Windows '95 and Lan Manager (Microsoft products) to tie into their state and local governments and talk with their representatives. There's no reason why everyone, from the White House on down, should not have an email address. This is the only way we can return to a government that is for the people, by the people, and of the people." Gates noted, though, that although the government of the future could be built on Microsoft products, that he would not hold a financial position in the company by that time.
Although not willing to name a successor just yet, Gates did comment that he might want to look outside of the industry for a replacement head for Microsoft. "It's way too early to name anyone; far too many things can happen in between, but I'd probably want to get someone unconventional, who was willing to take risks, and had no pre-conceived notions about the industry. Don't laugh, but possibly even someone like Magic Johnson. He has tremendous name recognition, is a very sharp businessman, and has a unique point of view."
Magic Johnson? Regardless of whether or not Gates actually would pick the famed former basketball star, his interest in looking outside the industry for a replacement is not unusual, although in this case he admittedly would be looking way outside the industry. Apple Computer, for instance, recruited John Sculley from Pepsico, and other corporations have also been looking at executives from food and beverage or cosmetic corporations. Gates might actually have an inspired choice in Johnson were that to be whom he would finally select.
The issue of who Gates would choose as a running mate would be equally important. Particularly for someone like Gates, who has political background, a strong running mate could make or break the election. During Perot's bid, Perot found himself handicapped by his choice of Admiral Stockdale. Perot, not having any political background, found that he did not have any political strength in Stockdale to help him (or save him, as the case may be).
Gates, however, isn't indicating who his running mate might be. Observers note that he might choose one of two routes: first, someone established and politically mature, such as Lloyd Bentsen, should he still be around, to round out the ticket, or someone younger, such as Rep. Joseph Kennedy. He could opt to choose someone like current Vice-President Al Gore, with whom he has good relations but, as one analyst noted, "they really need at least one person on the ticket with personality."
All in all, the political race for 2000 is shaping up to be one to watch. Now if we can only get through the one in 1996...
04-01-95 WA - REDMOND : ELECTION PRESIDENT MICROSOFT GATES
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