Ballmer becomes Microsoft’s biggest individual shareholder

Software giant’s former chief executive owns 3.1 million shares more than Bill Gates

Steve Ballmer, the former chief executive officer of Microsoft, has became the company's biggest individual shareholder after Bill Gates sold 4.6 million shares of the world's largest software maker.

The 58-year-old, who retired on February 4th after serving 33 years at the company, owns 333.2 million shares of Microsoft, 3.1 million more than Gates. Ballmer has collected about $3.4 billion selling shares since the company’s 1986 initial public offering, and has a net worth of $18.8 billion.

“It’s not an event in and of itself but it is symbolic in that it speaks to what has taken place at Microsoft over the last 10 years. There has been a passing of the guard,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets in New York.

Ballmer joined Microsoft as employee number 30 in 1980 after Gates persuaded him to drop out of Stanford University’s business school. He rose to the rank of president and then took over for Gates as chief executive in 2000.

Revenue tripled under Ballmer's tenure, even as the company struggled to compete with Apple and Google in areas such as mobile phones, tablet computers and Internet search. Ballmer was replaced in February by Satya Nadella.

– Bloomberg