Bill Gates, the second-richest man in America, was working through his second round of visits this past summer at the Federal Trade Commission, a place as creaky and antiquated as Gates’s Microsoft Corporation is sleek and dynamic.
Gates had a potent lobbying team along: Microsoft’s chief in-house counsel, William Neukom; former FTC commissioner Patricia Bailey; and partners from New York’s Sullivan & Cromwell and from Preston Thor-grimson Shidler Gates & Ellis, the big Seattle-based firm where Gates’s father is a senior partner.
But in his visits to each of the four participating com¨missioners on two clammy July days, the 38- (then 37-) year-old Microsoft chairman did much of the talking himself. And at times he got a bit carried away-just as his company sometimes does in the heat of battle against competitors. Like when he barked, "You don’t know what you’re talking about," at an FTC official in a meet¨ing in the chairman’s office.
Or when Commissioner Dennis Yao, a soft-spoken former Wharton business school professor, floated a line of hypothetical questions suggesting possible curbs on Microsoft’s growing monopoly power, including disclo¨sure to competitors and the public of technical data about its dominant personal computer (PC) operating systems, MS-DOS and Windows.
Gates was vexed. "He started by calling Yao’s ideas socialistic," recalls a source familiar with the July 15 meeting, "and as he got angrier and angrier and louder and louder, he got into calling them Communistic."