UK: Microsoft's secret weapon.

UK: Microsoft's secret weapon. - With his stake in Microsoft valued by Forbes at $12 billion, Steve Ballmer is the world's wealthiest employee. But does he really deserve all that money, or was he, asks Malcolm Wheatley, just in the right place, with the

With his stake in Microsoft valued by Forbes at $12 billion, Steve Ballmer is the world's wealthiest employee. But does he really deserve all that money, or was he, asks Malcolm Wheatley, just in the right place, with the right friend, at the right time?

Steve Ballmer is one of Bill Gates' better kept secrets - a stratospherically high-powered 42-year-old whose stake in Microsoft is valued by Forbes magazine at $12 billion (or £7 billion), making him America's fifth richest individual, worth more than Ted Turner or Ross Perot. Relatively unknown outside the company, Ballmer was appointed as Microsoft's president last July, a move described by Gates as formalising a role that he had in fact been playing for some years.

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