Who Is Steve Ballmer?

Steve Ballmer is known as an influential technology business executive. He served as CEO of Microsoft Corporation from 2000 to 2014. Considered one of the wealthiest people in the world, Ballmer's estimated net worth exceeded $90 billion in 2022.

Key Takeaways

  • Steve Ballmer attended Harvard University with Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.
  • Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 as its 30th employee.
  • He is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.
  • Steve Ballmer served as the second CEO of Microsoft, succeeding Bill Gates.
Steve Ballmer

Investopedia / Lara Antal

Early Life and Education

Steve Ballmer was born on March 24, 1956, in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from Harvard University in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics and economics. Ballmer's first position was in product management at Proctor & Gamble. He briefly attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business before launching his career at Microsoft.


In 1980, Steve Ballmer joined his Harvard classmate, Bill Gates, at Microsoft. Hired as its first business manager, Ballmer was the start-up's 30th employee at age 24. His base salary was $50,000 and included equity in the company and a percentage of the profit growth Ballmer would generate. Within his first year, Steve Ballmer would help Microsoft secure a contract with IBM to provide the operating system for its computers. Microsoft went public in March 1986.


The number of employees at Microsoft in 1980.

Ballmer's early roles included executive vice president of sales and president. In 2000, he became the second CEO of Microsoft. During his fourteen-year tenure, Ballmer is credited with enhancing Microsoft’s enterprise strategy, overseeing the launch of the original Xbox, and investing in cloud technology. Ballmer led the expansion into search engines by releasing Bing and acquiring internet telephony provider Skype. Microsoft's revenue tripled under Ballmer's leadership.

Despite its success under Ballmer, Microsoft waivered under pressure from competitors like Apple and Google. In categories like mobile devices, search, and social media, Microsoft was slow to adapt. Critics accused Ballmer of focusing on sales and neglecting innovation. Several products underscored Microsoft's inability to compete, including the Zune digital media player, meant to rival the Apple iPod. Google Chair Eric Schmidt said of Microsoft in 2012: "They're a well-run company, but they haven't been able to bring state-of-the-art products into the fields we're talking about."

Ballmer retired from Microsoft in 2013.

Notable Accomplishments

After his retirement in 2014, Steve Ballmer bought the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for $2 billion.

Ballmer is active in numerous charitable projects and is co-founder of the Ballmer Group, which provides philanthropy and civic engagement to help remove barriers and create opportunities throughout many stages of a young person’s life.

Steve Ballmer founded USAFacts, a non-profit organization and free website that allows users to track data and better understand U.S. government revenue and spending. In addition to the website, Numbers Geek is an accompanying podcast, produced in partnership with USAFacts, that addresses issues from education to politics with leaders in business, technology, and entertainment.

In 2018, he invested $59 million in Social Solutions, which makes software for nonprofits and government agencies.

Why Did Steve Ballmer Launch USAFacts?

To combat internet misinformation, Steve Ballmer launched a free website that compiles government data from 70 different sources to create a financial report on the government. It makes it easy to find out everything, from how much taxes we all pay to crime and divorce rates.

How Did Ballmer's Leadership Propel Xbox?

Initiated as an idea to rival the Sony Playstation, the Xbox team at Microsoft was free to try risky things, such as pursuing a strategy that helped it champion the idea of what would become a major shift in the gaming world - the connected console.

How Many Shares of Microsoft Stock Does Steve Ballmer Own?

Steve Ballmer owns a 4% stake in Microsoft, about 333 million shares.

The Bottom Line

Steve Ballmer's influence in the technology arena and at Microsoft Corporation remains evident today. His business acumen and leadership over 33 years with the corporation helped move Microsoft from an early start-up to a dominant force in the industry. Steve Ballmer's success has made him one of the richest people in the world.

Article Sources
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  1. Forbes. "Steve Ballmer."

  2. National Basketball Association. "Steve Ballmer."

  3. CNBC. "Billionaire Steve Ballmer started out making only $50,000 at Microsoft."

  4. Irish Times. "Ballmer becomes Microsoft's biggest individual shareholder."

  5. Microsoft. "Microsoft to Put Zune Experience in Consumers’ Hands on Nov. 14."

  6. Yahoo! Finance. "Google's Eric Schmidt: Microsoft Is 'Well-Run' But Irrelevant."

  7. Apple. "Numbers Geek with Steve Balmer."

  8. NPR. "Is Do-It-Yourself Fact Checking the Future?"

  9. Business Insider. "Why Steve Ballmer Spent $10million on USAFacts."

  10. Washington Post. "The Xbox: A successful anomaly for Ballmer's Microsoft."

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