AP file
Don't call him "Sir Bill." As an American, Bill Gates will only be able to put the letters KBE after his name.
updated 1/27/2004 1:28:37 PM ET 2004-01-27T18:28:37

Britain will give an honorary knighthood to Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates in recognition of his contribution to enterprise in Britain, the government said Monday.

Gates, 48, who is the richest man in the world, will receive the honor at an unspecified later date that is "mutually convenient," the Foreign Office said.

Because he is not a British citizen, Gates cannot use "Sir" in front of his name, but he can put the letters KBE after his name. The initials stand for Knight Commander of the British Empire.

"The honorary KBE is in recognition of his outstanding contribution to enterprise, employment, education and the voluntary sector in the United Kingdom," the Foreign Office said.

"He has also made significant contributions to poverty reduction in parts of the Commonwealth and elsewhere in the developing world."

No one was immediately available for comment at Microsoft U.K. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Honorary awards to foreign nationals are conferred by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Straw said he was "delighted" that Gates, an American, had been honored.

"He is one of the most important global business leaders of this age," Straw said. "Microsoft technology has transformed business practices, and his company has had a profound impact on the British economy, employing 2,000 people and contributing to the development of the (information technology) sector."

In 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $210 million donation to Cambridge University to create a scholarship program for graduate students from outside Britain.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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