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Bill Gates Sells Off 90 Million Of His Microsoft Shares

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 02/09/11 01:52 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:30 PM ET

Bill Gates Stocks

Update: Additional context on investment added below

Is Bill Gates souring on Microsoft? The founder, and largest single stockholder, in the company has sold off 90 million of his own stocks in the past year.

As Information Week reports, Gates has reduced his stock holdings by 13 percent from last year, with ten million shares sold as recently as last week.

Officials say that Gates is just doing as all investors do and diversifying his portfolio. But also possible is that Gates, like all investors, wants to see a real return on his money. Information Week notes:

If you invested one dollar in Microsoft in 2001 and cashed out that holding today, your compound annual return over the five-year period would be a measly 2.74%. That same dollar invested in Apple would have returned 38.8% annually over the half decade, in Google the payback would have been 11.12%, in Oracle 30%, and in IBM 17.37%.

Gates, of course, has owned his stock for well over twenty years. It may be that he is simply reading the writing on the wall. Microsoft's recent tribulations getting an iPad-competitive tablet to get traction are well known. And other disasters like Windows Vista and the failed KIN smartphones only lend credence to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's words that Microsoft is now the "underdog."

Instead, Bill Gates is investing in garbage--literally--as in the company Republic Services, which deals in solid waste services. Gates still has 591 million shares in the company, but has decreased 22 percent in his shareholdings from two years ago. Selling off stocks to help fund his charitable endeavors is not a new habit for Gates--similar sales garnered attention back in 2010 and 2009.


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