If you had a couple of billion dollars, would you strap on a BlackBerry, jump on a
A shocking number of billionaires do.
Ours is the era of the overworked billionaire. The world has become a place where people can make literally billionaires of dollars in their lifetimes. Some 755 of the 1,125 people on the Forbes Billionaires list made their own fortunes.
Yet even once they`ve amassed more money than they could hope to spend in several lifetimes, they just don`t quit working. Is it sheer force of habit? Pride? Can`t think of anything else to do? An overdose of competitive spirit?
These days, even some of the people who inherit money wind up working hard to grow their fortunes. But our criteria for the world`s hardest-working billionaire had to start with someone from a more modest background. We then looked at other data points: how many people work for them? How extensive are the empires they command, both in dollars and in influence? How often do they have to get on planes and make speeches in places they may not even remember? How willing are they to put themselves on the firing lines for the companies and the products they represent? And how much attention do they draw from the rest of the world?
We had a great list of candidates: Hong Kong`s Li Ka-shing, who runs a diversified empire that started with plastic flowers. Larry Ellison, the Silicon Valley titan who, these days, is on the lookout for buyout opportunities. Even Carl Icahn, the corporate raider who now calls himself an "activist investor," jumps on every potential business deal. He`s in the midst of leading a shareholder revolt at Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO - news - people ) in hopes of forcing a sale to Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) from which he stands to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ballmer has been working especially hard this year to revamp Microsoft and make it more competitive with tech`s new "it girl," Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ). The major battle is for online search advertising, which the Internet king all but created--and dominates.
Ballmer will go to any length to sell a product, and doesn`t worry about looking like a fool. In public appearances, he jumps and screeches like a monkey, drenches himself in sweat and sticks out his tongue when he`s really pumped up about something.
But the Detroit native has the last laugh: Ballmer ranks No. 43 on Forbes` billionaires list, with a net worth of $15 billion.
On Jan. 31, he launched a bid for Yahoo!, to combine its advertising businesses with Microsoft`s. After three months of strategic and sometimes personal memos to each other in the press, the two companies couldn`t agree on a price, and Ballmer threw in the towel May 3.
Corporate raider Icahn launched a proxy fight May 15 to unseat Yahoo!`s board as a vehicle to get the two companies back to the negotiating table. It worked. Three days later, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced that they had resumed talks--at least about crafting a smaller deal instead of a full acquisition of Yahoo!. But Microsoft said it`s also not ruling out another go at buying Yahoo! as a whole.
Neither company has provided details about their latest talks, but it`s said that Microsoft
At the All Things D conference in May, Ballmer reiterated the company line on Yahoo!: "We`re not rebidding [but] we reserve the right to do so," he said.
If he doesn`t succeed in capturing some or all of Yahoo!, it won`t be for lack of trying. Stay tuned for more monkey-dancing and tongue-wagging from the larger-than-life Ballmer.