Newspapers recently reported that Bill Gates had "broken down" and bought a private jet. Gates had been well known for flying coach and
only coach. Microsoft portrayed the decision as symbolic of their CEO's
growing maturity and sense of perspective. His competitors dared to hope a
little extra leg room might mellow the Microsoft chairman. As this flurry
of year-end news reports suggest, such was not the case:
Dec. 1, 1997, from the New York Post: Time for Gatesgate? Bill
Gates has no idea what happened to his new $21 million private jet.
"All he knows is Melinda lost it somewhere in the nursery," a Microsoft
company flack told Page Six, almost apologetically, adding that the
world's richest man "will skibble right out and buy another."
Dec. 7, 1997, from the Wall Street Journal: Microsoft today
announced it was buying the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation for
$1.8 billion in Microsoft stock. "Bill was thinking of little Jennifer Katharine's
face when she unwrapped the box," a company spokeswoman said, almost
apologetically, adding, "Is this guy Dad of the Year or what?"
Dec. 9, 1997, from the Associated Press: Bill Gates today broke
down and gave the San Jose-based Apple Computer a used Gulfstream
jet. "Bill just felt uncomfortable watching his good friend Steve schlep
back and forth to Redmond in coach," a Microsoft spokesman said, almost
apologetically, adding that Microsoft would comply with a Justice
Department subpoena for the receipt.
Dec. 11, 1997, from Variety: Former Disney topper Mike Ovitz
is the latest H-wood macher to plunk down big bucks for a Gulfstream jet.
"It's always a pleasure to support a friend whose success is owing in no
small measure to me," the ex-ten-percenter sed.
Dec. 15, 1997, from the Wall Street Journal: Microsoft announced
plans today to offer free plastic Gulfstream models to the first 100,000
users to log onto the new MS Gulfstream-Sidewalk Web site. The site
can be accessed only via Microsoft's Internet Explorer. "Why should little
Jenny Gates be the only one with a new jet in her stocking?" Microsoft
asked in a press release. When the distinction between a 15-cent model and
the $21 million real thing was pointed out, a Microsoft spokeswoman said,
"You still don't get it, do you?"
Dec. 17, 1997, from the New York Times: New York City officials
confirmed today that the Microsoft Corporation had loaned the Office of
the Mayor a new Gulfstream jet. "This is not, I repeat, not, connected
to MSNBC-Gulfstream-Sidewalk's getting the old Channel 13 slot," Director
of Communications Cristyne Lategano said, almost defensively, adding that
Mayor Giuliani would use the plane to travel "to various national
Republican strongholds as urgent city business dictates."
Same day, Los Angeles Times: Microsoft announced today that it had
loaned Dreamworks SKG a trio of GulfStream Vs with Saarinen flight
chairs in brushed velvet for the use of its executive team. "I've never
understood Bill's issue with conspicuous consumption," Mr. Geffen said with
a shrug, "but this sends a signal that he cares about fostering the best
possible work environment for artists."
Dec. 19, 1997, from Bloomberg Business News: In a move that took both
industries by surprise, Bill Gates bought the Boeing Corporation for
$21 billion in Microsoft stock today. "Bill was growing frustrated with the
whole private-jet gestalt," a Microsoft spokeswoman said, almost
apologetically, adding, "he is, and always will be, a small 'd' democrat."
Dec. 20, 1997, from the Los Angeles Times: Microsoft announced
today that it had provided a cash infusion to Dreamworks MSKG, as
the new joint operation will be called. The company will shift its focus to
in-flight entertainment. At the same time, Microsoft took Michael Ovitz's
lightly soiled private jet off his hands for the full purchase price less a
modest 10 percent restocking fee. "Bill just likes to help his friends
out," a Microsoft spokeswoman said, almost apologetically.
Dec. 21, 1997, from Newsday: A tearful and defiant Mayor Rudy
Giuliani today broke down and agreed to swap his official residence for
the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, now named Microsoft
Explorer Port.com. "There's been some misreporting on this one," a
Microsoft spokeswoman said, almost apologetically. "Bill never said he'd
lose his landing rights if he didn't vacate Gracie Mansion."
Dec. 22, 1997, from The Financial Times: The Microsoft Corporation
announced its plans today to acquire the Anglo-French consortium Airbus
Cie. for $17 billion in Microsoft stock. "Europe has all those
paintings and old buildings and one day Bill will want to introduce
Jennifer to art," a Microsoft spokeswoman said, almost apologetically,
denying reports that Mr Gates plans to merge Airbus and Boeing to form
Microsoft Air. "That's baseless innuendo supplied by government Luddites
and our competitors in private industry," the spokeswoman responded.
Dec. 27, 1997, from USA Today: Microsoft will buy National Airport
from Washington, D.C.'s nearly bankrupt city government. The airport will
join the former LaGuardia as a hub for Microsoft Air.
Dec. 30, 1997, from the Washington Post: Senior administration
officials acknowledged today that the U.S. government was selling
the nation's air traffic control system to Microsoft in exchange for 1
million shares of Microsoft stock. After word leaked from Washington, the
company moved quickly to spin the deal. "We just thought, gee, wouldn't it
be neat if every time a Microsoft Air plane landed at a Microsoft airport,
there was Microsoft software to guide it in," chairman Bill Gates said at a
press conference. Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School, the
"special master" appointed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson
to evaluate Microsoft's compliance with its 1995 antitrust settlement,
called the move "cause for deep concern," but added that he was having
trouble getting a flight to Washington to confer with Attorney General
Janet Reno. "Well, where does he want to go today?." Gates
responded, demonstrating his well-known boyish sense of humor.