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

Burgum joined Great Plains Software in 1983 and became its president in 1984. He sold the company 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, as well as a co-founder of Arthur Ventures.

In 2016 Burgum announced his intention to run for the governorship of North Dakota as a Republican. With no formal political experience and despite losing the state party’s endorsement to longtime Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem at the party convention in April, Burgum defeated Stenehjem in the primary election to claim the Republican nomination. He faced Democrat Marvin Nelson and Libertarian Marty Riske in the November general election; he won with over 75% of the vote. He was reelected in 2020 with 66% of the vote.[2]

Early life and education

Burgum was born on August 1, 1956 in Arthur, North Dakota, where his grandfather had founded a grain elevator in 1906.[3] He is the son of Katherine (Kilbourne) and Joseph Boyd Burgum.[4][5] He attended North Dakota State University (NDSU) to earn his undergraduate degree in 1978. During his senior year at NDSU, he applied to the Stanford 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; it “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.'”[6]

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.”[6] He received his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1980. He later received honorary doctorates from North Dakota State[7] in 2000 and from the University of Mary in 2006.[8]

Executive career

Early career

Following his graduation from Stanford GSB, Burgum moved to Chicago to become a consultant with McKinsey & Company. Soon afterward he mortgaged $250,000 of farmland 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 its president in 1984 after leading a small investment group composed of family members in buying out the rest of the company.

Great Plains Software

During the 1980s, Fortune magazine often ranked Great Plains among the top 100 companies to work for in the United States. 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 it expand beyond North Dakota.[9] In 2001 he sold Great Plains Software to Microsoft for $1.1 billion.[10] Burgum has said he built the company in Fargo because of its proximity to North Dakota State University, in order to employ its stream of engineering students.[11]


After the sale, Burgum was named Senior Vice President of Microsoft Business Solutions Group,[8][12] the offshoot created from merging Great Plains into the corporation.[7] He stayed with Microsoft until 2007 and was responsible for making enterprise apps a priority for Microsoft during this tenure.[13] Satya Nadella, current CEO of Microsoft, has credited Burgum with “inspiring him to find the soul of Microsoft”.[14]

Board work

Burgum has served on the advisory board for Stanford Graduate School of Business[8] and was on the board of SuccessFactors during the 2000s, becoming its chairman from 2007 till the 2011 sale of the company to SAP. In 2012 he 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).[15] During 2011 and 2014, he twice spent several months as the interim CEO of Intelligent InSites,[8] a company for which he has served as the executive chairman of the board since 2008.[16] That year he also became a member of Avalara’s board of directors.[17]

Investment firms

Burgum is the founder of the Kilbourne Group, a real-estate development firm focused on Downtown Fargo.[18][19] In 2013 he created plans to build the tallest building in Fargo—a 23-story mixed-use building—to be named either Block 9 or Dakota Place.[20] The company has also advocated for a convention center to be built in Downtown Fargo.[21] It has acquired and renovated many Fargo properties, including the former St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and the former Woodrow Wilson alternative high school.[22] Burgum co-founded Arthur Ventures, a venture capital company.[16] Several of the companies he has invested in are in Fargo.[10][23]


Burgum supports philanthropic causes like the Plains Art Museum.[24] In 2001[25] 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.[26] In 2008 Burgum started the Doug Burgum Family Fund, which focuses its charitable giving on youth, education and health.[8]

Governor of North Dakota


In 2016, Burgum announced his intent to run for governor of North Dakota as a Republican. With no formal political experience, Burgum lost the state Republican party’s gubernatorial endorsement contest to longtime Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem at the party convention in April. Nevertheless, he defeated Stenehjem handily in the primary election two months later to claim the nomination. Burgum faced Democrat Marvin Nelson and Libertarian Marty Riske in the November general election and won with over 75% of the vote.[2]


Burgum ran for reelection in 2020. He was reelected with over 65% of the vote against veterinarian Shelley Lenz.[27][28]


Burgum was sworn in as the 33rd governor of North Dakota on December 15, 2016, alongside running mate Brent Sanford, the 38th lieutenant governor of North Dakota.[29][30]

Political positions

Burgum supports the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.[31]

In July 2020, Burgum called the 2020 Republican platform “divisive and divisional” on LGBT issues.[32][33]

Personal life

Burgum married his first wife, Karen Stoker, in 1991. They have three children and divorced in 2003.[citation needed] In 2016, Burgum married Kathryn Helgaas.[34]

Electoral history

2016 North Dakota gubernatorial election[35]
Republican Doug Burgum and Brent Sanford 259,863 76.52
Democratic-NPLMarvin Nelson and Joan Heckaman65,85519.39
LibertarianMarty Riske and Joshua Voytek13,2303.90
Total votes339,601 100.00
2020 North Dakota gubernatorial election[36]
Republican Doug Burgum and Brent Sanford (incumbent) 235,479 65.84%
Democratic-NPLShelley Lenz and Ben Vig90,78925.38%
LibertarianDuWayne Hendrickson and Joshua Voytek13,8533.87%
Total votes357,659 100.00%


  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 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. ^ “Burgum, Katherine Kilbourne, 1915- – Social Networks and Archival Context”. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  5. ^ “Katherine “K” Kilbourne Burgum (1915-2005) – Find…” Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Karlgaard, Rich (June 13, 2017). “America’s Best Entrepreneurial Governor”. Forbes. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  7. ^ a b “Magazine – Burgum – North Dakota State University”. Archived from the original on February 23, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e “Douglas J. Burgum”.
  9. ^ Rich Karlgaard (September 16, 2002). “Microsoft Is Plain Crazy”. Forbes.
  10. ^ a b LibNelson (December 11, 2014). “North Dakota’s quest not to blow its oil wealth”. Vox.
  11. ^ Kotkin, Joel (February 4, 2010). The Next Hundred Million. ISBN 9781101195703.
  12. ^ Stacy Cowley (March 10, 2005). “Interview: Doug Burgum on Microsoft’s business apps plan”. InfoWorld.
  13. ^ Joshua Greenbaum. “See Ya Later Doug: Burgum Leaves Microsoft Much the Wiser”. ZDNet.
  14. ^ “Fireside Chat with Satya Nadella and Jessi Hempel”.
  15. ^ “Atlassian Expands Its Board, Appoints Former SuccessFactors Chair Doug Burgum As Chairman”. TechCrunch. AOL. July 19, 2012.
  16. ^ a b Robin Huebner Forum News Service (October 25, 2014). “Ebola: Fargo company’s real-time tracking tech ‘game-changing.
  17. ^ Deborah Gage. “Avalara Becomes A Bitcoin Supporter”. WSJ.
  18. ^ John Hageman / Forum News Service. “Businesses cite workforce struggles in push for discrimination ban”. INFORUM.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Tu-Uyen Tran. “River of dreams: Fargo city leaders OK downtown riverside master plan”. INFORUM.
  22. ^ “Kilbourne Group buys another downtown Fargo building”. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  23. ^ “Arthur Ventures looks to provide capital lift to local innovation”. Silicon Prairie News.
  24. ^ John Lamb. “Weekend Watch: Gala brings a taste of Brazil to the Plains”. INFORUM.
  25. ^ “Northern School Supply”. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  26. ^ “Fargo 2.0: It’s not like the movie”. The Seattle Times. June 24, 2014.
  27. ^ [1] North Dakota gubernatorial election results
  28. ^ Nicholson, Blake. “Burgum campaign measures popularity against that of Heitkamp”. Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  29. ^ Smith, Nick (December 15, 2016). “Burgum to Emphasize Government Reinvention”. The Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  30. ^ Holgate, Julie (December 15, 2016). “Doug Burgum Takes Office as ND Governor Today”. Valley News Live. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  31. ^ Smith, Nick (December 23, 2016). “Burgum Posts Video Message About DAPL”. The Morton County & Mandan News. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  32. ^ MacPherson, James (Associated Press). “North Dakota Governor Blasts Party’s Anti-LGBTQ Resolution”, U.S. News & World Report, 23 July 2020.
  33. ^ Bollinger, Alex. “North Dakota GOP platform says LGBTQ people “recruit” children & “prey” on women”, LGBTQ Nation, 23 July 2020.
  34. ^ Ingersoll; Archie; As a recovering addict herself, ND’s first lady hopes to tackle addiction issues; Inforum; Februally 11, 2017; [2]
  35. ^ “Official Results General Election”. North Dakota Voting Information & Central Election Systems. North Dakota Secretary of State. November 8, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  36. ^ “Statewide Results”. North Dakota Secretary of State. November 12, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2020.

External links

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