Sources: Bloomberg, YouTube
quote: From the time we’d started together in Massachusetts, I’d assumed that our partnership would be a 50-50 proposition. But Bill had another idea. “It’s not right for you to get half,” he said. “I should get more. I think it should be 60-40.”Bill’s intensity was nonstop, and when he asked me for a walk-and-talk one day, I knew something was up. We’d gone a block when he cut to the chase: “I’ve done most of the work on BASIC, and I gave up a lot to leave Harvard,” he said. “I deserve more than 60 percent.”“How much more?”“I was thinking 64-36.”... I concluded that it was just this simple: What’s the most I can get? I think Bill knew that I would balk at a two-to-one split, and that 64 percent was as far as he could go. He might have argued that the numbers reflected our contributions, but they also exposed the differences between the son of a librarian and the son of a lawyer. I’d been taught that a deal was a deal and your word was your bond. Bill was more flexible; he felt free to renegotiate agreements until they were signed and sealed. There’s a degree of elasticity in any business dealing, a range for what might seem fair, and Bill pushed within that range as hard and as far as he could.
quote: He was growing into the taskmaster who would prowl the parking lot on weekends to see who’d made it in. People were already busting their tails, and it got under their skin when Bill hectored them into doing more. Bob Greenberg, a Harvard classmate of Bill’s whom we’d hired, once put in 81 hours in four days, Monday through Thursday, to finish part of the Texas Instruments BASIC. When Bill touched base toward the end of Bob’s marathon, he asked him, “What are you working on tomorrow?”Bob said, “I was planning to take the day off.”And Bill said, “Why would you want to do that?”Bill liked to hash things out in intense, one-on-one discussions; he thrived on conflict and wasn’t shy about instigating it. A few of us cringed at the way he’d demean people and force them to defend their positions. If what he heard displeased him, he’d shake his head and say sarcastically, “Oh, I suppose that means we’ll lose the contract, and then what?” When someone ran late on a job, he had a stock response: “I could code that in a weekend!”And if you hadn’t thought through your position or Bill was just in a lousy mood, he’d resort to his classic put-down: “That’s the stupidest ****ing thing I’ve ever heard!”....you could hear our voices up and down the eighth floor. And so we’d go at it for hours at a stretch, until I became nearly as loud and wound up as Bill. I hated that feeling. While I wouldn’t give in unless convinced on the merits, I sometimes had to stop from sheer fatigue. I remember one heated debate that lasted forever, until I said, “Bill, this isn’t going anywhere. I’m going home.”And Bill said, “You can’t stop now—we haven’t agreed on anything yet!”“No, Bill, you don’t understand. I’m so upset that I can’t speak anymore. I need to calm down. I’m leaving.”Bill trailed me out of his office, into the corridor, out to the elevator bank. He was still getting in the last wordSome said Bill’s management style was a key ingredient in Microsoft’s early success, but that made no sense to me. Why wouldn’t it be more effective to have civil and rational discourse? Why did we need knock-down, drag-out fights? Why not just solve the problem logically and move on?
quote: In April 1980, shortly before leaving town on a business trip, I agreed that we should offer him up to 5 percent of the company, because Bill felt certain that Steve wouldn’t leave Stanford unless he got equity. A few days later, after returning from my trip, I got a copy of Bill’s letter to Steve. (Someone had apparently found it in the office’s Datapoint word-processing system, and it made the rounds.) Programmers like Gordon Letwin were furious that Bill was giving a piece of the company to someone without a technical background. I was angry for another reason: Bill had offered Steve 8.75 percent of the company, considerably more than what I’d agreed to.It was bad enough that Bill had chosen to override me on a partnership issue we’d specifically discussed. It was worse that he’d waited till I was away to send the letter....I was in Bill’s office one day talking about MS-DOS revenues. Our flat-fee strategy had helped establish us in several markets, but I thought we’d held on to it for too long. A case in point: We’d gotten a fee of $21,000 for the license for Applesoft BASIC. After sales of more than a million Apple II’s, that amounted to two cents per copy. “If we want to maximize revenue,” I said, “we have to start charging royalties for DOS.” Bill replied as though he were speaking to a not-so-bright child: “How do you think we got the market share we have today?” Then Steve came by to weigh in on Bill’s side with his usual intensity (Microsoft later switched to per-copy licensing, a move that would add billions of dollars in revenue.)One evening in late December 1982, I heard Bill and Steve speaking heatedly in Bill’s office and paused outside to listen in. It was easy to get the gist of the conversation. They were bemoaning my recent lack of production and discussing how they might dilute my Microsoft equity by issuing options to themselves and other shareholders. It was clear that they’d been thinking about this for some time.I replayed their dialogue in my mind while driving home, and it felt more and more heinous to me. I helped start the company and was still an active member of management, though limited by my illness, and now my partner and my colleague were scheming to rip me off. It was mercenary opportunism, plain and simple.When Microsoft incorporated, in 1981, our old partnership agreement was nullified, and with it his power to force me to accept a buyout based on “irreconcilable differences.” Now he tried a different tack, one he’d hinted at in his letter. “It’s not fair that you keep your stake in the company,” he said. He made a lowball offer for my stock: five dollars a share.
quote: Gates has never been and never will be a saint.
quote: Look at the vast reams of stuff you've frothed all over this article and compare to the few lines of stuff I've posted.