Bill Gates signs off £3.6bn of Microsoft shares to charity
Bill Gates has held the title of world’s richest man since 2013 – aside from a brief moment last month when the title was passed on to the world’s second-richest man. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, was briefly the richest man in the world before Amazon stocks fell again and normality was restored.
Well, Bezos has woken up this morning to the news that he’s closed the gap, but it’s nothing to do with Amazon. Bill Gates has made his largest charitable donation since 2000, giving 64 million Microsoft shares to a mystery charity according to records at the United States securities and exchange commission. These 64 million Microsoft shares come to a cool $4.6 billion’s (~£3.6bn) worth of Gates’ personal fortune.
Although the charity is unnamed, it’s very likely to be the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at improving global healthcare and reducing poverty in the world’s poorest regions. You’d need quite a big novelty fundraising thermometer to keep track of his philanthropy – the latest gift takes the grand total to $35 billion (~£27bn), giving Bezos more than a fighting chance of catching up this year.
It really is a question of “when”, rather than “if” – unless Amazon suddenly collapses, which looks increasingly unlikely given the stock market’s unshakable faith in the company. In 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (back then sitting in second and third place in the wealth league) created the Giving Pledge: a promise for signatories to donate at least half of their wealth to charity. Current names on the list include Mark Zuckerberg and George Lucas, but Bezos’ name is currently not on there.
Gates’ regular philanthropic donations meant that by 2014 he was no longer the largest stakeholder in the company he founded, and the latest sale puts his current stake in Microsoft at just 1.3% – dropping from 49% in 1986.