Another Path to a Billion

What's the wealth-making secret of the world's billionaires? For investors on the list, it's sticking to a strategy that plays to their inherent strengths. For many of the others, including five of the top 10, it's entrepreneurship.

Oh to be an owner
You know the list: Microsoft's Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Oracle's Larry Ellison, and Dell's Michael Dell are the four most recognizable names on Forbes' latest list of the nation's richest. Real estate mogul Sheldon Adelson and his $20 billion fortune, composed mostly of stock in Las Vegas Sands, ranks third and rounds out the list of self-made billionaire entrepreneurs in the top 10.

But there are many more. Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) founder Richard Schulze ranks 70th with a $3.6 billion fortune. Meanwhile, bebe Stores' (Nasdaq: BEBE  ) founding fashionista, Manny Mashouf, is 242nd with $1.5 billion. Broadcast.com founder, full-contact investor, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ranks 133rd with $2.3 billion. And Silicon Valley wonder twins Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) rank 12th and 13th with $14.1 and $14.0 billion, respectively.

Invest with owners
If you're feeling envious, I don't blame you. Wouldn't it be great if we were all billionaires, unencumbered by the need for money? Of course it would be. But that's not how the world works.

Still, I find it reassuring that, as rich as Bill Gates and Paul Allen are, the bulk of their wealth came from staying invested in the company that brought them to the billionaires' ball. Why? Because anyone with a brokerage account could have enjoyed similar percentage gains.

In fact, many did. So great is the story of Microsoft's ability to generate wealth that it has a name -- the uprising of the so-called "Microsoft millionaires." At least hundreds of them must still exist. Consider this chart. A $1,000 investment in Mr. Softy at the dawn of 1990, four years after his debut on the Nasdaq, would be worth more than $55,000 today.

Searching for the next Microsoft
That's why Motley Fool Hidden Gems co-advisors Tom Gardner and Bill Mann focus on the stocks of up-and-coming firms in which the managers own a significant stake. Some of their best performers still feature heavy insider ownership.

Consider surf-culture warrior Volcom (Nasdaq: VLCM  ) , which Tom originally singled out in the April issue and then again in August. While the stock is up only modestly since its 2005 IPO, you can be sure that insiders -- who still own 46% of shares -- foresee a very bright future.

Then there's Dawson Geophysical (Nasdaq: DWSN  ) , which helps oil explorers find new reserves. Bill recommended the stock a year ago, and it's up nearly 26% since. Meanwhile, insiders still own 18% of the outstanding shares of this small cap.

So don't envy the billionaire owners. Invest alongside them. They're the ones who really have the best chance to create the next Microsoft and make you millions in the process. And if you'd like Hidden Gems to help you identify some promising prospects, click here to join the service free for 30 days.

This article was originally published on Oct. 12, 2006. It has been updated.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns shares of Oracle. Get the skinny on all of the stocks in Tim's portfolio by checking his Fool profile. Dell, Best Buy, and bebe are selections of the Motley Fool Stock Advisor service. Dell is also a pick for Motley Fool Inside Value. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy always takes ownership.


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