Tom Golisano


Founder, Paychex

Political Donor

Former Gubernatoral Candidate (New York)







Net worth:

$2.8 billion


Naples, FL

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Tom Golisano is an American businessman, philanthropist, Democratic political donor, and politician. He is the founder, former CEO, and chairman of the board of Paychex. Golisano’s current net worth is estimated at $2.8 billion as of mid-March 2020, making him the 195th richest person in the world. 1

Golisano’s political views tend toward fiscal conservatism, but he has not maintained consistent alignment with any political party. He has a long history of advocating for political and electoral procedure changes.

Golisano ran for governor of New York in 1994, 1998, and 2002 as the candidate for the Independence Party of New York. In the 2000s, Golisano associated with both the Republican and Democratic Parties at various times. In 2011, he began pursuing efforts to replace the Electoral College system with a national plurality-at-large vote for President with National Popular Vote. In 2018 he launched the Tax My Property Fairly political campaign to lower property taxes in New York.

In 2020, Golisano and ghostwriter Mike Wicks wrote Built, Not Born: A Self-Made Billionaire’s No-Nonsense Guide for Entrepreneurs, an account of Golisano’s business achievement and advice.


Blase Thomas Golisano was born in 1941 in Rochester, New York. He attended the SUNY College of Technology at Alfred and earned a degree in business. After graduating, Golisano worked in payroll at numerous companies and later started his own payroll processing firm. 2


Golisano built his fortune by founding the Rochester-based human resources and payroll management service Paychex in 1971. In 2003, Forbes named Golisano one of the ten best bosses in America. He stepped down as CEO in 2004 but continued to serve on the Paychex board. Paychex is currently the most valuable firm in Rochester. 3

In 2003, Golisano purchased the Buffalo Sabres professional hockey team as it entered bankruptcy. He held the team for eight years, refusing numerous buy-out offers which would have relocated the team outside Buffalo. In 2011, he sold the team to businessman Terry Pegula for $189 million, which was considered below market rate. Pegula has kept the Sabres in Buffalo. 4

In 2018, Golisano bought Greenlight Networks, a Rochester-based internet-provider. 5


Independence Party of New York

In 1991, Golisano co-founded the Independence Party of New York (IP) with Gordon Black and Laureen Oliver. The IP claims to be a non-ideological party which seeks to reform the democratic and electoral processes to allow more influence from forces outside the Republicans and Democrats on the political system. 6 In 1992, the Party became a state-affiliate of the Reform Party of the United States, best known for backing Ross Perot’s candidacies for president in 1992 and 1996. In 1994, the Party used Perot’s momentum to get on the New York State ballot for the first time. In 2007, the Party became a state-level affiliate of the national Independence Party of America (IP).

In 2005, Golisano left the Independence Party for the Republican Party. 7

Gubernatorial Candidacies

In 1994, Golisano ran for the governor of New York for the first time as the Independence Party candidate. He came in third place with 217,490 votes, or 4.18% of the vote. He lost to Republican George Pataki. 8

In 1998, Golisano ran for governor of New York again. He came in third place with 364,056 votes, or 7.7% of the vote. He lost again to Governor Pataki. 9

In 2002, Golisano ran for governor a third time. However, incumbent Governor Pataki gained the endorsement of the Independence Party. Golisano charged Pataki with voter registration fraud to seize control of the Party and marginalize the competing political power bases developing in Rochester and Buffalo. 10 In response, Golisano launched a primary challenge within the party and won, thereby securing the Independence Party ballot line and denying it to Gov. Pataki. Golisano also launched a write-in campaign to win the primary for the Conservative Party, but failed. 11 In the general election, Golisano earned 654,016 votes, or 14.28% of the electorate. Governor Pataki was reelected. For the first time, Golisano narrowly won Monroe County, his home county. 12

Though Golisano’s three gubernatorial runs were unsuccessful, by receiving at least 50,000 votes, he guaranteed the IP would be placed on the ballot for four subsequent years each time. Golisano spent a combined $93 million on his three gubernatorial runs. 13

In 2005, Governor Pataki decided not to run for re-election. The New York Republican Party recruited Golisano to run in his place. Golisano appears to have seriously considered the proposal, and even switched to the Republican Party, but eventually decided not to run. 14


In July 2008, Golisano used $5 million of his own money to launch Responsible New York, a bipartisan PAC which donates to New York legislators who support lower property taxes and electoral reforms. 15

In 2009, many of the candidates the PAC supported joined a coalition which voted to remove Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens). The vote for Senate leader ended in a tie which could only be broken by the lieutenant governor. At the same time, Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) resigned, making Lt. Gov. David Paterson (D) governor. With no lieutenant governor, there was no tie-breaking vote in the Senate, and the body remained inactive for over a month. Golisano claimed partial credit for orchestrating the crisis. 16

The month after founding the PAC, Golisano gave $1 million to the Democratic National Convention. 17 Prior to 2008, over the previous 16 years, Golisano had only donated $13,300 to political parties and candidates, including $4,500 to the IP. 18

Later in the year, Golisano unexpectedly announced he was moving his legal residence to Naples, Florida. In a public statement, he claimed that the move would save him $5 million per year in taxes, and that New York’s fiscal problems were a product of powerful special interests, especially teachers unions. 19

In 2011, Golisano became the spokesman for National Popular Vote, an advocacy group which attempts to circumvent the electoral college by lobbying for an “interstate compact” for states to give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Golisano also offered $10 million to the organization, but “pulled back” on his work with them in 2017. 20

Tax My Property Fairly

In 2019, Golisano launched the Tax My Property Fairly campaign, which seeks to reform New York property taxes. According to the campaign, New York property taxes use a property assessment system which rewards New York City residents at the expense of upstate larger-tract owners. The campaign seeks to educate New Yorkers on the causes of their high taxes and to challenge the taxes legislatively. 21


Since 1985, Golisano, who has a developmentally challenged son,22 has donated $300 million through his B. Thomas Golisano Foundation to charities, hospitals, and schools that support special-needs children. 23 In 2015, he gave $25 million to the Special Olympics to expand its operations to include more individuals with mental disabilities. Forbes listed his donation as one of the “Big Bets for Social Change” of the year. 24 Golisano’s other philanthropic work has mostly gone to institutions in the city of Rochester, including Unity Hospital, Rochester University, and the Broadway Theater League.


  1. “#195 Tom Golisano.” Forbes. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  2. “Profile: Thomas Golisano.” Rochester Business Journal. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  3. “Profile: Thomas Golisano.” Rochester Business Journal. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  4. “’Tom saved hockey in Buffalo’: How the Golisano years rescued the Sabres.” Buffalo News. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  5. “Golisano acquiring high-speed internet provider Greenlight Networks.” Democrat & Chronicle. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  6. “What Does the Independence Party Stand For?” Independence Party of New York. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  7. Healy, Patrick D. and Staba, David. “Golisano Decides Not to Run for Governor.” New York Times. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  8. “1994 Gubernatorial General Election Results – New York.” US Election Atlas. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  9. “The 1998 Elections: New York State – The Governor; Pataki Wins Election to a Second Term by a Hefty Margin.” New York Times. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  10. Hicks, Jonathan P. “Voting Board Finds Fraud, But Rejects Complaint.” New York Times. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  11. Cukan, Alex. “Elections 2002: A fly in the NY Ointment.” UPI. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  12. “2002 Gubernatorial General Election Results – New York.” US Election Atlas. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  13. “Tom Golisano Net Worth.” Celebrity Net Worth. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  14. Healy, Patrick D. and Staba, David. “Golisano Decides not to Run for Governor.” New York Times. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  15. Confessore, Nicholas. “Golisano Aims Millions at N/Y/ Legislative Races.” New York Times. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  16. Peters, Jeremy W. and Hakim, Danny. “Revolt Imperils Democratic Control of the Senate.” New York Times. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  17. “Convention Committees: Contributing Individuals.” Open Secrets. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  18. Beckel, Michael. “National Popular Vote Plan Pushers Hire New Lobbyists, Bring on Deep-Pocketed Help.” Open Secrets. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  19. “Why I’m Leaving New York.” Niagara Falls Reporter. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  20. “Is the Electoral College Doomed?” Politico Magazine. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  21. “A Resource for Homeowners.” Tax My Property Fairly. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  22. “Tom Golisano’s Special Kindness.” Channel Kindness. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  23. “Tom Golisano Biography.” Golisano Foundation. Accessed March 20, 2020.
  24. Dolan, Kerry A. “Big Bet Philanthropy: How More Givers Are Spending Big and Taking Risks to Solve Society’s Problems.” Forbes. Accessed March 20, 2020.

Connected Organizations

  1. National Popular Vote (NPV) (Non-profit)
    Major Donor
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