It's hard to imagine a world where Bill Gates
isn't directly vested in Microsoft
, the company he co-founded and that made him a multi-billionaire. But as weird as that may be to fathom, Bill Gates may be all out of Microsoft shares within the next four years if he keeps selling them off at the pace he's been on for the past 12 years.
As part of a pre-set trading plan, Gates has been selling off 20 million Microsoft shares every quarter. In doing so, former CEO Steve Ballmer just surpassed Gates as the company's largest individual shareholder with 333 million shares versus 330 million, Reuters
Each of them now own about 4 percent of the total outstanding shares, far more than any other individual. When Microsoft went public back in 1986, Gates owned a 49 percent stake in the company. As Microsoft grew, his ownership made him the richest person in the world, a distinction that holds true today (Gates is worth around $77.2 billion, according to Forbes
Gate relinquished his role as CEO in January 2000 but remained on as Chairman and created a chief software architect position for himself. Then in 2006, Gates began his transition from full-time to part-time work. His last day as a full-time Microsoft employee came on June 27, 2008. Gates also stepped down as Chairman earlier this year.