Cameras capture Bill Gates in an exceptional scene”; “American billionaire Bill Gates photographed with a bag of leftovers”; “The 4th richest person in the world carries the leftovers of his dinner”; and “Despite his obscene wealth, Bill Gates carries the leftovers of his dinner”.
These were some of the headlines in the media commenting on a picture in which Gates came out of a restaurant carrying what appeared to be a takeaway bag. The comments suggested wide disapproval of this behaviour by a person, who, if he distributed his wealth to the inhabitants of the earth, each of them would get more than $20.
But let’s delve deeper into the personality of the man who launched and runs the largest charitable donor in history: The Bill and Melinda Foundation. This foundation has assets of more than $50 billion, and has handed out total donations of more than $40bn for education and health initiatives around the world.
Gates was also at the forefront of donors to scientific research efforts related to Covid-19, the production of vaccines, and the rescue of humanity from this pandemic.
I honestly admire the personality and insight of this self-made man. He warned us 10 years ago that the end of humanity would not be with an atomic or hydrogen bomb, but with a deadly virus that spreads quickly and threatens our lives and ways of living. Back then he called for accelerating medical research to address the self-developing viruses and to anticipate their spread with an effective treatment.
He decided to sell or donate most of his shares in Microsoft, and the value of the donations of his shares have so far amounted to $35.8bn, while he retained only up to one per cent in the American company, or about $10bn. In addition, although Gates spends his money on many activities and collectibles, supporting the world with humanitarian and charitable projects is at the forefront of his interests.
Despite this, some still accuse him of being stingy, for his modest spending on his clothes, as he wears a cheap watch, and constantly eats fast food. Reports indicate that he allocates $10 million to each of his three children, meaning that each one will receive only 1.1pc of their father’s fortune because Gates believed that they should succeed and build themselves on their own.
The media can also accuse Gates’ friend, the legendary investor Warren Buffett, of being stingy. He not only shares some companies and businesses with Gates, but personal traits as well, in terms of modest dress and eating in fast-food restaurants.
I once read that he chooses a meal from McDonald’s for $1.70 when money markets are not okay, but he treats himself to a $2.30 meal when those markets are booming, which means he allows himself to spend an extra half dollar on his food on the day he makes millions of dollars in profits.
This seems strange, but it does not become so when we read what Buffett said when it comes to spending money: “If you buy what you do not need today, tomorrow you will most likely have to sell what you need.”
He also said: “Be sure to save the amount you want first and then spend the rest, instead of spending what you want and then thinking about saving the rest.”
In 1978, I had relaunched my company Promoseven in Bahrain, and its business flourished in subsequent years. I kept transferring the cash to my bank account without looking at my final balance. After a few years, the bank manager called me to meet him over lunch. During lunch, he asked me a question I did not expect. “Do you want to be a master or a servant to your money? You now have a million dollars in your bank account, and you have to think carefully, either to invest this money to help you expand your business and serve the people around you, or you become a captive of money and occupy your mind all the time with the profits you gain.”
The man was indeed an expert, and he helped me determine my position on money since that time. The possession of a million dollars in those days by a man who was still in the prime of his youth might divert him from the right path and tempt him to drown in pleasures and vanity, but I made sure never to take that path.