Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Billionaire Building a ’10-K for the Government’ to Win an Argument With His Wife

What do you do if you’re a retired billionaire with nothing better to do than watch the basketball team you own? If you’re former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, you assemble a team of “25 data geeks” to “[pore] over more than three decades of government documents to create a comprehensive accounting of U.S. spending.”

The goal is to treat the nation like a company and create what Ballmer describes as a "10-K for the government," like the one publicly traded businesses are required to file with regulators each year.

Incredibly, no one else beat Ballmer to this tedious and thankless task, but really, his wife deserves at least some of the credit for the idea:

Ballmer’s obsession with government data originated from a disagreement with his wife. Almost three years ago, Connie Ballmer told her newly retired husband that he should focus more on philanthropy. His wife has dedicated herself to child welfare and other causes, and there's plenty left to give: Ballmer's estimated net worth is $25.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. "I said, 'Eh, why do you worry about it so much?'" Ballmer said. "At the end of the day, the biggest philanthropy in the U.S. is the government. So as long as we pay our taxes, we're doing our part."

It was an unusual argument to make, and as with many Ballmer debates, it turned into a research exercise. He scoured the web for a summary of government spending at all levels. He started with Bing and then tried Google. Neither had what he was looking for. So he decided to build it.

He used Google? Gosh, he really tried, you guys.

Now, I’m no relationship expert, but at this point in the argument, I imagine Connie Ballmer rolling her eyes and going back to doing something worthwhile as Steve starts on this passion/proving the Mrs. wrong project. Eventually, what Ballmer and his merry band of spreadsheet wizards built is called “USAFacts” and it consists of “hundreds of Excel files and 385 PowerPoint slides, many of which require a magnifying glass to read.”

The Bloomberg report doesn’t have a rough word count on USA 10-K, but it’s safe to say that it’ll probably bypass GE’s breezy 109,894. I’d take on the assignment of writing it for a small stake in the Clippers.

Meanwhile, it sounds like a peace has been reached in the Ballmer household:

The project has helped settle Ballmer's dispute with his wife. Government funding accounts for a larger share of many social-services organizations’ budgets for aiding children than private donations, he said.

But economic mobility remains largely unachievable for America’s poorest families. The data helped convince the Ballmers to focus their philanthropy on impoverished kids in U.S. cities with the lowest chances of improving their situations. Ballmer will continue making political contributions as well. He still believes influencing public policy is one of the most effective ways to effect change, he said. "We were both right."

I think I speak for Connie when I say, “Sure, Steve.”


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Latest Accounting Jobs--Apply Now:

Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

Comments are closed.

Related articles

EY flags

Promotion Watch ’23: EY Promotes 966 to Partner, Missing Last Year’s Record of 1033

Undeterred by the embarrassment of Everest’s implosion, EY proudly announced today that 966 people have been promoted to partner across the globe. That’s down from the record 1,033 promoted to partner in 2022. The obligatory press release makes sure to mention that these promotions reflect continued growth and strong business performance by the organization. In […]

Treasure chest on the beach

KPMG Gets Sued, Accused of Allowing Pirate-Like Activity at Credit Suisse

Discountenanced Credit Suisse stockholder Gregory Stevenson is suing 29 of Credit Suisseā€™s current and former directors and officers, the bank’s ex-auditor KPMG, and various KPMG henchmen on behalf of investors alleging the firm looked the other way while aforementioned directors and officers plundered the bank for more than a decade. The docket number is No. […]