Doug Burgum

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Doug Burgum
Governor Doug Burgum.jpg
33rd Governor of North Dakota
Assumed office
December 15, 2016
LieutenantBrent Sanford
Preceded byJack Dalrymple
Personal details
Born (1956-08-01) August 1, 1956 (age 63)
Arthur, North Dakota, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Kathryn Helgaas (m. 2016)

Karen Stoker (divorced)
ResidenceGovernor's Residence
EducationNorth Dakota State University
Stanford University (MBA)
WebsiteGovernment website

Douglas James Burgum (born August 1, 1956) is an American entrepreneur, philanthropist and politician serving as the 33rd Governor of North Dakota since December 15, 2016. He is a member of the Republican Party.[1]

He joined Great Plains Software in 1983 and became the company's president in 1984, which he later sold to Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001. At Microsoft he became the head of Microsoft Business Solutions. He began serving as chairman of the board for Atlassian in 2012. He also served on the board for SuccessFactors starting in 2007, and as chairman from 2010 to 2012. Burgum is the founder of Kilbourne Group, a Fargo-based real-estate development firm, and co-founder of Arthur Ventures.

In 2016, he announced his intention to run for Governor of North Dakota as a Republican candidate. With no formal political experience and despite losing the state Republican party's gubernatorial endorsement contest to longtime Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem at the party convention in April 2016, Burgum defeated Stenehjem in the primary election to claim the Republican nomination. Burgum ran against Democrat Marvin Nelson and Libertarian Marty Riske in the November 2016 gubernatorial election, and won with over 75% of the vote.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Burgum was born on August 1, 1956 and raised in Arthur, North Dakota, where his grandfather founded a grain elevator in 1906.[3] He attended North Dakota State University to earn his undergraduate degree in 1978. During his senior year at NDSU he applied to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He also started a chimney-sweeping business. “The newspaper wrote a story about me as a chimney sweep,” he later recalled, “and ran a photo of me sitting on top of an icy chimney in below-freezing weather in Fargo. The story made the AP wire service. I was later told it caused quite a stir in the Stanford admissions office: 'Hey, there's a chimney sweep from North Dakota who's applied.'”[4]

He was accepted to study business at Stanford. While there, he befriended Steve Ballmer, who would later be CEO of Microsoft. During his last year at Stanford, Burgum “spent the whole final quarter on a project team with Ballmer.”[4] He received his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1980. He would later receive honorary doctorates from North Dakota State[5] in 2000 and from the University of Mary in 2006.[6] He married his first wife Karen Stoker in 1991 and later divorced.

Executive career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Following his graduation from Stanford GSB, Burgum moved to Chicago to become a consultant with McKinsey & Company. Soon afterward he mortgaged $250,000 of farm land in order to provide the seed capital for accounting software company Great Plains Software in Fargo, North Dakota.[3] He joined the company in 1983 and became the company's president in 1984 after leading a small investment group composed of family members in buying out the rest of the company.[3][5]

Great Plains Software[edit]

During the 1980s, Great Plains was often ranked in the top 100 companies to work for in the US by Fortune magazine. Burgum grew the company to about 250 employees by 1989 and led the company to about $300 million in annual sales and a 1997 IPO, after using the Internet to help the company expand beyond the borders of North Dakota.[7] In 2001, Burgum sold Great Plains Software to Microsoft for US$1.1 billion.[8] Burgum has stated that he built the company in Fargo because of its proximity to North Dakota State University, in order to employ its stream of engineering students.[9]


Following the sale, Burgum was named Senior Vice President of Microsoft Business Solutions Group,[6][10] the offshoot created from merging Great Plains into the corporation.[5] He stayed with Microsoft until 2007 and was responsible for making enterprise apps a priority for Microsoft during this tenure.[11] Satya Nadella, current CEO of Microsoft, has credited Burgum with “inspiring him to find the soul of Microsoft”.[12]

Board work[edit]

Burgum formerly served on the advisory board for Stanford Graduate School of Business[6] and was on the board of SuccessFactors during the 2000s, becoming chairman of the board between 2007 and the 2011 sale of the company to SAP. In 2012 Burgum became the first chairman of the board for Atlassian, after it expanded from its initial board of three members (none of whom served as the official chair).[13] During 2011 and 2014, he twice spent several months as the interim CEO of Intelligent InSites,[6] a company for which he has served as the executive chairman of the board since 2008.[14] That year he also became a member of the board of directors for Avalara.[15]

Investment firms[edit]

Burgum is the founder of the Kilbourne Group, a real-estate development firm focused on downtown Fargo.[16][17] In 2013 Burgum created plans to build the tallest building in Fargo—a 23-story mixed-use building—to be named either Block 9 or Dakota Place.[18] The company has also advocated for a convention center to be built in downtown Fargo.[19] The company has acquired and renovated multiple properties in Fargo, including the former St. Mark's Lutheran Church and the former Woodrow Wilson alternative high school.[20] He is a co-founder of Arthur Ventures, a venture capital company.[14] Several of the companies he has invested in are located in Fargo.[8][21]


Burgum supports philanthropic causes like the Plains Art Museum.[22] In 2001[23] he donated a refurbished school building he had acquired in 2000 to North Dakota State University. It was named Renaissance Hall and became home to the university's visual arts department, major components of the architecture and landscape architecture department and the Tri-College University office.[24] Burgum started the Doug Burgum Family Fund in 2008, which focuses its charitable giving on youth, education and health.[6]

Governor of North Dakota[edit]


In 2016, he announced his intention to run for Governor of North Dakota as a Republican candidate. With no formal political experience and despite losing the state Republican party's gubernatorial endorsement contest to longtime Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem at the party convention in April 2016, Burgum nevertheless defeated Stenehjem handily in the primary election two months later to claim the Republican nomination. Burgum ran against Democrat Marvin Nelson and Libertarian Marty Riske in the November 2016 gubernatorial election, where he easily won with over 75% of the vote.[2]


In 2019, a spokesman for Burgum announced that the Republican leader is leaning toward a reelection bid and is interested in what his odds are against the former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, if she is to be brought forward as the Democratic candidate. While Burgum has not yet announced a reelection bid, his spokesman, Mike Schrimpf, said that polling inidcates that Burgum has broad support, as "one of the most unique governors we've had".[25]


Burgum was sworn in as the 33rd Governor of North Dakota on December 15, 2016 alongside running mate, Brent Sanford, who was sworn in as the 38th Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota.[26][27]

Political positions[edit]

Burgum has stated his support for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.[28]

Personal life[edit]

He married his first wife, Karen Stoker, in 1991 and divorced in 2003. They have three children. In 2016, he married Kathryn Helgaas.[29]

Electoral history[edit]

North Dakota gubernatorial election, 2016[30]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Doug Burgum and Brent Sanford 259,863 76.52
Democratic-NPL Marvin Nelson and Joan Heckaman 65,855 19.39
Libertarian Marty Riske and Joshua Voytek 13,230 3.90
Write-in 653 0.19
Total votes 339,601 100.00


  1. ^ "Doug Burgum elected Governor; speech upcoming on WDAY". Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Forum staff reports. "Live stream: Doug Burgum announcement at 11 a.m." INFORUM.
  3. ^ a b c Gretchen Heim Olson. "Spring 2006: Doug Burgum's Prairie Fire 20 Years and Blazing". North Dakota Horizons. Archived from the original on February 15, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Karlgaard, Rich; America's Best Entrepreneurial Governor; Forbes; June 13, 2017; [1]
  5. ^ a b c "Magazine - Burgum - North Dakota State University". Archived from the original on February 23, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Douglas J. Burgum".
  7. ^ Rich Karlgaard (September 16, 2002). "Microsoft Is Plain Crazy". Forbes.
  8. ^ a b LibNelson (December 11, 2014). "North Dakota's quest not to blow its oil wealth". Vox.
  9. ^ "The Next Hundred Million".
  10. ^ Stacy Cowley (March 10, 2005). "Interview: Doug Burgum on Microsoft's business apps plan". InfoWorld.
  11. ^ Joshua Greenbaum. "See Ya Later Doug: Burgum Leaves Microsoft Much the Wiser". ZDNet.
  12. ^ "Fireside Chat with Satya Nadella and Jessi Hempel".
  13. ^ "Atlassian Expands Its Board, Appoints Former SuccessFactors Chair Doug Burgum As Chairman". TechCrunch. AOL. July 19, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Robin Huebner Forum News Service (October 25, 2014). "Ebola: Fargo company's real-time tracking tech 'game-changing'".
  15. ^ Deborah Gage. "Avalara Becomes A Bitcoin Supporter". WSJ.
  16. ^ John Hageman / Forum News Service. "Businesses cite workforce struggles in push for discrimination ban". INFORUM.
  17. ^ Bevill, Kris (December 7, 2012). "LEADERSHIP: Proving Success on the Plains". Prairie Business. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
  18. ^ Sam Black (September 9, 2013). "Software entrepreneur Doug Burgum wants to build North Dakota's tallest office tower, Dakota Place - Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal.
  19. ^ Tu-Uyen Tran. "River of dreams: Fargo city leaders OK downtown riverside master plan". INFORUM.
  20. ^ "Kilbourne Group buys another downtown Fargo building".
  21. ^ "Arthur Ventures looks to provide capital lift to local innovation". Silicon Prairie News.
  22. ^ John Lamb. "Weekend Watch: Gala brings a taste of Brazil to the Plains". INFORUM.
  23. ^ "Northern School Supply". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  24. ^ "Fargo 2.0: It's not like the movie". The Seattle Times. June 24, 2014.
  25. ^ Nicholson, Blake. "Burgum campaign measures popularity against that of Heitkamp". Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  26. ^ Smith, Nick (December 15, 2016). "Burgum to Emphasize Government Reinvention". The Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  27. ^ "Doug Burgum Takes Office as ND Governor Today". Valley News Live. December 15, 2016. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  28. ^ Smith, Nick (December 23, 2016). "Burgum Posts Video Message About DAPL". The Morton County & Mandan News. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  29. ^ Ingersoll; Archie; As a recovering addict herself, ND's first lady hopes to tackle addiction issues; Inforum; Februally 11, 2017; [2]
  30. ^ "Official Results General Election". North Dakota Voting Information & Central Election Systems. North Dakota Secretary of State. November 8, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2017.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Jack Dalrymple
Republican nominee for Governor of North Dakota
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Jack Dalrymple
Governor of North Dakota
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within North Dakota
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jared Polis
as Governor of Colorado
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside North Dakota
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Kristi Noem
as Governor of South Dakota