Gates cashes out another 20M Microsoft shares for $882M

Holdings drop under 300-million-share mark for the first time as sales plan continues

Bill Gates has sold another 20 million shares of the company he co-founded, driving his portfolio under the 300-million mark for the first time, according to regulatory filings.

Over a five-day span from July 24 to July 30, Gates sold the shares at prices ranging from $43.45 to $44.54, turning the holdings into $882 million in cash. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published the sales documents between July 28 and July 31.

Gates, former CEO and chairman, has been selling approximately 80 million shares annually -- usually 20 million each quarter -- for the last decade in a long-standing plan to fund the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has pledged to give away the bulk of his wealth.

At the end of his latest sales stretch, Gates owned 298 million shares worth $12.9 billion at Monday's closing price. If Gates continues his sales pace, he will empty his portfolio by September 2018.

Gates ceded the title of largest Microsoft shareholder in April, when his holdings dipped under the 333 million owned by ex-CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer, who has promised to pay $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team, has about $14.4 billion in Microsoft stock.

Both men remain on the company's board.

Since Gates vacated his role as chairman in February to become an advisor to new CEO Satya Nadella, Gates has been almost entirely in the background at Microsoft. He has remained in the news, however, most recently in a report from China that he will help start a philanthropic education program in that country.

According to Forbes, Gates is the second-richest person on the planet, with an estimated wealth of $79.5 billion.

Gates stock chart
Bill Gates sold another 20 million shares of Microsoft last month, reducing his holdings to under 300 million shares for the first time. Former CEO Steve Ballmer remains the top shareholder, a spot he grabbed from Gates in April. (Data: Microsoft SEC filings.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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