I went on a cruise with some other Microsoftees last Friday in a lake around Seattle (don't know if it is Lake Union or Lake Washington). I was able to pick out Bellevue with its skyscapers from the Eastside.
Eventually, we went around Medina, and I was able to witness the homes (or mansions) of various top executives, like McCaw, who are worthed, if not billions, hundreds of millions of dollars. The houses looked surprising small; I guess it was the distance from the boat to the coastline. I saw a section of the adjunct to a house with eight garages two-stories high at least, so it couldn't be small. Third, I noticed a set of corporate buildings, tall prisms with glass windows on the lake and realized, the other houses were really at the same scale as the corporate building. Another house was in the process of being built, and used in its construction were the same cranes and other heavy equipment that are normally used for corporate buildings.
Bill's house was built under a cliff and hidden behind a set of trees. Bill's house did not look that large either, even though it is 66,000 square feet, not include the parking garage, but the land, much of which had vegetation stretched across a coast, was undeniably long. It would be have quite a walk. I saw steps from the top of the cliff to the bottom, and, with about a hundred steps, I can tell it would be quite a climb. I have read the house has elevators, and in fact functions as another Microsoft building. A conference consisting of the top executives in the world was hosted at his house.
I have been to two large houses in my life. One was when I was young and had a vague recollection of a graduation party. Another was during a party hosted by a fellow female MBA student, whose father invented the floppy disk and made millions. Her father's house was huge, and hosted her five hundred person wedding. It was on a hill, and you could drive 100MPH on the driveway. The house though was over 14,000 square feet, so a little over 1/5 of Bill's house.
A cruise staff member told us about the lavish birthday party Bill's daughter had with some sort of Castle structure and whole bunch of girls dressed up as princesses. She also mentioned the tight security around the houses, and how the lawn had sensors in them to detect trespassers.
When you are a billionaire, you not only live in a mansion right on the coast of beautiful lake which a view of the city, but your next door neighbors are also billionaires and command some of the most powerful and largest companies. I think we also passed by the top guy at Starbucks and the top guy at a telecommunications company.
One nice thing about being an intern at Microsoft is that you get to see his house, but you really only see a tiny glimpse. One intern mentioned he saw eight doors to a theater inside the house with the sign coming-soon. I know the theater has 20 seats and is 1,500 sq ft.
Paul Allen, the other billionaire Microsoft co-founder, has a much more ostentatious house.