If you don't think a tech guru can dominate sports, you must not know who Steve Ballmer is. As a baby boomer, Ballmer has been around the block and boasts an interesting set of skills that have led him through the corporate world as former chief executive officer of Microsoft, and current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Here are the top five things you should know about this innovative self-made billionare who has probably flown under your radar.
Ballmer befriended entrepreneur Bill Gates as an undergrad at Harvard. When he was offered a position as a business manager at Microsoft in 1980, Ballmer left his MBA program to jumpstart his career. According to a report from The Guardian, he was the company’s 24th employee.
After spending 20 years at Microsoft, Ballmer was named CEO on Jan. 13, 2000. His notable achievements include the successful evolution of Windows operating systems — from Windows ME to Windows 8.1 — the release of the original Xbox in 2001, Xbox Live in 2002 and Xbox 360 in 2008, which all sold millions of game titles and created a game subscription model. The first Microsoft Surface tablet was also released under Ballmer’s leadership in 2012.
With 14 years of CEO experience under his belt, Ballmer stepped down from the top position on Feb. 4, 2014. By Aug. 19 of that year, Ballmer left Microsoft’s board of directors to focus on his next business venture in the National Basketball Association.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
When TMZ Sports rocked the nation by releasing a racist recording from Donald Sterline, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Ballmer was there to take the sports team out of the Sterling family trust’s hands. Ballmer won the bidding war against media mogul David Geffen and another Los Angeles investor with his offer of $2 billion — a record for an NBA team.
By May 29, 2014, Ballmer signed a binding agreement for the purchase and became the official owner in August of that year, according to his attorney, Adam Streisand.
“I love basketball," Ballmer said at the time of the purchase. "And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win – and win big – in Los Angeles.”
According to a report by Forbes, the Clippers pulled in an annual revenue stream of $258 million and the team is valued at $2.2 billion as of Feb. 2019.
Just like philanthropic billionaire Bill Gates, Ballmer has a dedicated organization for giving back. The Ballmer Group, which has a mission to improve economic mobility for children and families in underserved areas of the United States, provides funding to non-profits across the nation.
Forbes has listed Ballmer's lifetime giving to be on par with his purchase of the Clippers.
"He has ramped up his philanthropy since 2014, putting over $2 billion into a donor-advised fund, with a focus on lifting Americans out of poverty," the report said.
When it comes to political involvement as a Washingtonian, Ballmer has made campaign donations local officials. According to records from OpenSecrets.org, Ballmer has donated to Republican campaigns 10 times and Democratic campaigns five times.
In June 4, 2016, Ballmer co-founded the USAFacts Institute with Ballmer Group’s Chief Operating Officer Brandt Vaughan. USAFacts is a non-profit organization and website that offers a non-partisan portrait of the U.S. population, government finances, and policy impact on society.
During an appearance on FOX Business in 2018, Ballmer told FBN’s Neil Cavuto that he wasn’t pleased with how the government handles the federal budget.
"Even if people know the numbers, there's no courage,” he told Cavuto. “Nobody wants to sacrifice anything in the short term so that we don't leave these huge debt and deficits to our children. That drives me crazy.”
He added: “Unless we get a handle on those big costs, there is no way in heck those deficits will go away.”
Aside from work in tech and sports, Ballmer bought a 4 percent stake in social media company Twitter in Oct. 2015, which made him one of the company’s largest shareholders. However, three years later, Ballmer revealed he sold his Twitter shares.
“I don’t hold any of my Twitter shares anymore — except to the extent they are represented in index funds,” Ballmer said at the time. “I sold really because I decided investing money is not my business.”
According to a report compiled by Forbes, Ballmer’s real time net worth is estimated at $51.7 billion and is ranked as 19th on their annual list of billionaires.