Saturday, 20 September 2014

This Is The Man Making Bill Gates So Rich

Bill Gates is worth an astounding $81.6 billion and he keeps getting richer every year.

His secret weapon is a man you have probably never heard of: Michael Larson.

Michael Larson

Gates hired Larson 20 years ago, when his net worth was a relatively paltry $5 billion, report Anupreeta Das and Craig Karmin at the Wall Street Journal, who just wrote a profile on the notoriously secretive Larson.

Larson runs Gates’ personal investment company Cascade Investment LLC, funded solely by Gates.

At one time, Gates wealth depended solely on Microsoft. But for years he’s been selling off his Microsoft stake. The common perception is that he’s been using the proceeds from those sales directly for charity. That’s not entirely how it works.

Although Gates makes his own investments in tech, it is Larson, through Cascade, who has taken Gate’s money and diversified it. Gates now has vast holdings in real estate and non-tech companies like the Canadian National Railway Co., AutoNation Inc., and Republic Services Inc. It is these vast holdings that help fund the Gates’ donations.

And although Gates has given an astounding $38 billion to his charitable foundation, thanks to Larson, he’s getting richer faster than he can give his money away.

His $81.6 billion is nearly $6 billion more than it was as of March 2014, when he was worth $76 billion, we reported at the time. And $76 billion was $9 billion more than he was worth in March, 2013.

In February, Gates celebrated 20 years of this partnership by throwing a gala to honour Larson at his Seattle mansion, reports the WSJ. It was a rare occasion where the two men socialized with each other. Apparently, they aren't buddies and don’t hang out much, sources told the Journal.

At the party, Gates told guests he has “complete trust and faith” in Larson, meaning that Larson invests Gates’ money, buying and selling, with completely autonomy.

And he does it all under a cover of such ferocious secrecy that he’s been nicknamed “the Gateskeeper.”

Although publicly traded companies do reveal when Cascade has invested heavily in them, Larson has all sorts of tricks for keeping Cascade’s and Bill Gate’s names out of other investments, sources told the Journal.

For instance, he makes employees sign confidentiality agreements which cover them even after they leave. He farms out more than $10 billion to up to 25 outside money managers. This helps him find new investment ideas, but it also helps cover the trail. When Cascade was part of an investment group that bought the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Francisco, the publicist didn't even know Cascade, and Bill Gates, was among them.

He’s also been known to fire up a limited Limited Liability Corporation to make real estate purchases, to keep Cascade’s name off the deal and the deed.

He’s so good at hiding the trail that most people don’t know that Gates, through Cascade, owns a significant stake in the Four Seasons luxury-hotel chain.

And he’s frugal with the bosses’ money, too. Apparently Cascade employees, of whom there are about 100, are not allowed to stay at the Four Seasons when travelling on business, even if that business is on behalf of the Four Seasons. They must choose a lower-cost, less luxurious hotel.

“Melinda and I are free to pursue our vision of a healthier and better-educated world because of what Michael has done,” Gates told guests at the party.

And ultimately, the money will go to charity. Bill and Melinda Gates have vowed to donate 95% of their wealth to their foundation, as part of Gate’s Giving Pledge.

But until then, Larson is making it grow.

The Evolution of Chat: Stone Scribbles to Swipeable Screens

This year, the Oxford English Dictionary has added a slew of new words to the dictionary, from “amazeballs” to “YOLO.”

Cue the defenders of the English language, who take these “cray” new words to signal the dumbing-down and ultimate demise of the English language.

But self-proclaimed defenders of language have been bemoaning its decline for hundreds, even thousands of years: “Our Language is extremely imperfect,” complained Jonathan Swift in his 1712 essay, A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue. “Its daily Improvements are by no means in proportion to its daily Corruptions.”

George Orwell agreed in 1946: “Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way.”

But linguists agree there’s never been a “golden age” of language.

In fact, if anything, humanity’s ability to communicate with each other has improved over time. Linguists theorize that the first spoken language, the mother tongue of all languages today, had a simple vocabulary and grammar system, and was spoken at a slower speed, compared to languages today.

Yet from that one Stone Age dialect, humanity has evolved to speak thousands of distinct languages across the globe. Today we’re still discovering new languages all the time, showing humanity’s determination to communicate with each other.

Every language in the world is a living thing, ever changing and evolving.

That includes written language as well, first developed from images drawn on cave walls. Back when those detailed pictures started to develop into more of a symbolic shorthand, there were probably language purist cavemen who protested against the decline of pictorial communication.

As much as language has evolved and changed throughout the centuries, it’s not going anywhere: Humanity has been using some form of language or other to communicate with each other for thousands and thousands of years. Though the specific medium of communication might change, we’ll never stop chatting.

The Evolution of Chat: Stone Scribbles to Swipeable Screens #infographic

Quote for the day

“The real-time experiment turned out to be a very good idea because it stimulated my thinking. Having to explain my reasons for making decisions forced me to become more coherent; it imposed a certain discipline on me, which was very helpful.” - George Soros

These 44 Apps Will Make You More Productive

This is a selection of apps, broken up into specific categories which can all be used to increase your productivity in all areas of your life.

These 44 Apps Will Make You More Productive #infographic