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, its 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, comprised 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. W&T Offshore (NYSE: WTI ) founder Tracy Krohn ranks 278th with a $1.4 billion fortune. Meanwhile, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) co-founder David Filo is tied with several at 117th with $2.5 billion. FedEx (NYSE: FDX ) shipper-in-chief Fred Smith ranks 140th with $2.2 billion. And CDW (Nasdaq: CDWC ) founder Michael Krasny is 215th with $1.6 billion.
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 Gates and 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 nearly $50,000 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 meaningful insider ownership.
Consider Wi-Fi chip maker Atheros Communications (Nasdaq: ATHR ) , which Tom singled out in the October issue for its technology leadership. The stock is up more than 40% since, enriching insiders who still own more than 6% of the company.
Then there's OYO Geospace (Nasdaq: OYOG ) , which helps to monitor oil and gas reserves. Bill first recommended the stock for the April issue and it's also up more than 40%. Meanwhile, insiders still own nearly 5% of the business.
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. All of his portfolio holdings can be found at Tim's Fool profile. Dell, FedEx, and Yahoo! are selections of the Stock Advisor service. Dell and Microsoft are picks for Inside Value. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy always takes ownership.