Bill Gates, the world’s richest person and prominent philanthropist, has made his largest donation in 17 years, and the largest share donation by anyone so far this year.
The Microsoft co-founder donated 64 million of the company’s shares, valued at $4.6 billion on June 6, to an unnamed recipient. The sum, detailed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission will most likely be given to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
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The Microsoft co-founder has reduced his stock in the company from 24 per cent in 1996 to just 1.3 per cent today. The shares donated this week accounted for about five per cent of his wealth. Despite the giveaway, he still has the world’s biggest fortune, currently estimated to be $89.9 billion.
Gates, 61, and his wife Melinda, set up their eponymous foundation in 2000. It is now the world’s largest private charitable organisation. The pair have given away a total of $35 billion (£27 billion) in cash and stocks since 1994. In 1999, Gates donated $16 billion worth of Microsoft shares and just a year later, gave away another $5.1 billion.
Gates could reduce his stock to zero in 2019 if he continues to gift his shares this way. But despite being best-known for his work at Microsoft, most of Gates’ income now comes from elsewhere.
His personal investment company Cascade Investment LLC, a man named Michael Larson autonomously diversifies his money. According to Business Insider, Gates makes an income from non-tech investments more quickly than he can give it away. He has holdings in Canadian National Railway Co., The Strategic Hotel group, waste disposal company Republic Services, AutoNation Inc., and Deere and Company, all of which help fund his philanthropic work.
Gates has sat at the top of Forbes rich list for 18 of the past 23 years. But eventually, most of his wealth will go to his foundation. In a 2013 interview he said his children would be left with about a billion dollars each; the rest, about 95 per cent of his wealth, will go to charity within 20 years after he and his wife die.
And he wants others to be just as generous. With his wife Melinda and fellow business mogul Warren Buffet, he created The Giving Pledge, encouraging other billionaires to donate most of their wealth to charitable causes. Since it was formed in 2010, 170 of the world’s richest have accepted the invitation.
In 2016, Gates and 19 other investors and leaders in the technology industry put more than one billion dollars (£793 million) into a fund to help solve climate change related problems. As Gates continues to give away his shares, his holding on the title of world’s richest person is wavering. For a few hours this year, Amazon’s stock rose by 1.6 per cent, sending the fortune of the company’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos soaring to a net worth of $90.9 billion (£68billion), momentarily making him the richest person in the world.