nice guy Billy G

Tim Byars (
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 13:09:39 -0700

The $6 Billion Giveaway

Credit Microsoft as one company that learns from looking like a fool.
After months of getting kicked around by the press for its bumbling
antitrust-trial antics, Redmond spinmeisters tasted revenge today.

Gates & Co. turned to its favorite weapon - money - and bought a new
image in the form of the freshly minted Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation. Trading on the provocative announcement that the
foundation expects to donate $6 billion to advance vaccine
development, the Redmond empire let loose with a round of news
releases and leaks that left the media not knowing what hit it.

Star player in the spin is Newsweek's cover kiss to the true Bill
Gates. Newsweek played the announcement of the $6 billion gift high in
the story, but writer Steven Levy already had his agenda mapped out.
His opening paragraph confirmed that Gates learned a basic media tip
from hanging around Washington types: Cooing to a baby in front of a
reporter will cause most writers to put away sharp questions.

Once Gates fired off an imitation of his 3-year-old daughter waking up
in the morning, Levy was mush in Gates' hands. Gates' explanations
about his antitrust-trial responses went unquestioned. "I gave totally
truthful answers," he insisted to Levy. "I have a great memory. When
[Boies] would ask imprecise questions, I would simply point out to him
the imprecise nature of the question." Levy quoted a parade of friends
and family of Bill, with nary a dissenting comment from the general
theme, Bill's a Great Guy. You could practically hear the music
swelling as the article rose to finish: "That's another part of Being
Bill Gates: confounding our impressions of what the richest guy in the
world must be like by simply being a human being."

As for the rest of the media, it couldn't agree on where it got the $6
billion story. Early wire feeds were everywhere, with little original
reporting. AP sourced its account to the lengthy article by Jennifer
Moore posted Saturday on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Web site. A
Reuters feed on quoted officials of the Gates Foundation,
while The Wall Street Journal, one of the few business outlets to run
a bylined story, credited the Newsweek article for tipping it off. CBS
MarketWatch's staff report attributed its information to a press
release from the Gates Foundation, but chimed in with an earlier
journalistic scuffling over statements by William H. Gates Sr. Three
weeks ago, The Sunday Times of London said the Gates clan would donate
most of its $100 billion fortune "within their lifetimes." Papa Gates
then told the Seattle Times that the Brits must have misunderstood,
and the London reporter apologized for the "misleading" statement.

San Jose Mercury News' Paul Rogers showed a bit of skepticism over the
whole thing, noting that the Gates have been sharply criticized in
recent years for not giving away enough of their fortune. But Rogers
followed with the unchecked optimism of business ethics lecturer Kirk
O. Hanson, who thinks techies will start proclaiming, "We, too, are
citizens of the world" and throwing money at charities a la
Rockefeller. We'll see.

As if the baby talk and big-bucks giveaways weren't enough, the Gates
family got another boost from the news that Melinda Gates will join
the board of Thanks to Bill, Melinda and the kid, score
one for Microsoft.

Behind the Gates Myth

Gift Makes Gates Fund No. 1 in U.S.

Gates Has Wealthiest Foundation (AP)

Bill Gates Donates $6 Billion to His Charitable Foundation
[Registration required.] Founder Resigns; Melinda Gates Named a Director
[Registration required.]

Gates Foundations Merge

Fortune Folly: Gates Donation Speculation

Gates Family Foundation Now No. 1

Gates and Wife Donate Another $5 Billion to Foundation (Reuters),4,40786,00.html?

The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining
armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological
chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling
second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.
-Douglas Adams, on Windows '95

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