Bill Gates’s holding company transfers $2bn shares to Melinda Gates

Couple’s divorce is expected to involve wealth transfer on a huge scale

American philanthropist Melinda Gates has received shares worth more than $3bn from her husband, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, since the couple announced plans to divorce. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi 
American philanthropist Melinda Gates has received shares worth more than $3bn from her husband, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, since the couple announced plans to divorce. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi 

Cascade Investment, the holding company created by Bill Gates, transferred stock in two of Mexico’s largest companies to Melinda French Gates, bringing the total amount she has received in the past few days to more than $2 billion.

Cascade moved stock worth more than $500 million in Coca-Cola Femsa and Grupo Televisa to her control, according to regulatory filings dated May 3, the same day the Gates announced they were ending their 27-year marriage.

Cascade also shifted about $1.8bn of shares in Canadian National Railway and AutoNation this week to Ms Gates, Bloomberg reported.

Their separation is expected to involve a wealth transfer on a scale that’s only been seen in a few other divorces, though few details have yet emerged.

It could also have ramifications for one of the most important philanthropic organisations on the planet.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given away more than $50bn to support health care, education, gender equality and efforts to combat climate change.

Cascade transferred a stake worth about $120m in Coca-Cola Femsa and a holding valued at about $386m in Grupo Televisa to Ms Gates, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the filings.

Mr Gates, the 65-year-old co-founder of Microsoft, is worth $144.2bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ms Gates, 56, is a former Microsoft manager who has gained international prominence co-running the foundation, and more recently for starting Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company to advance “social progress” in the US.

Mr Gates’s biggest asset is Cascade Investment, which he created with the proceeds of Microsoft stock sales and dividends. Cascade oversees a vast portfolio comprising real estate, energy and hospitality as well as stakes in dozens of public companies.

The biggest public position is agricultural-machinery maker Deere & Co, with Cascade holding more than 10 per cent of the stock valued at about $12bn, followed by an $11.8bn stake in waste-collection company Republic Services, Bloomberg data show. That’s followed by Canadian National and Ecolab.

Most of the portfolio, overseen by money manager Michael Larson, is comprised of North American companies, but it also owns stock in Diageo, the world’s largest distiller, and London-based private-jet services firm Signature Aviation.

The divorce comes two years after the 2019 separation announcement of Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott, another billionaire tech couple in Washington state. That split led to a division in the couple’s 16 per cent stake in Amazon.com, with Mr Bezos getting 75 per cent of the holding and Ms Scott 25 per cent.

The Gates are also among the largest landowners in America and have homes including their 66,000 square-foot mansion in Medina, Washington.

Updated: May 6, 2021 02:10 PM

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