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Gates tops share sale list, but foundations are shallow

Older charitable operations eclipse His Billness' do-goodery

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Bill Gates is known for his obsessive competitiveness, but he has some way to go to win all the records so far as his wealth is concerned. Gates sold more stock in the first half of 1999 than any other executive - $2.523 billion - but the significance is not great since he still holds around 980 million shares worth about $88 billion. There is no particular evidence that when the Microsoft share price is threatened that he sells. Most of the Gates loot is being laundered through his foundations, and it is in these stakes that he is lagging. He has set up two foundations: the William H Gates Foundation, run by his father, and having assets of $10 billion, and the Gates Learning Foundation with $1.3 billion. The Chronicle of Philanthropy shows the Lilly Endowment has assets of $15 billion, and the Ford Foundation has $10.7 billion. Three of the top four richest Americans obtained their wealth from Microsoft: Paul Allen is worth $30 billion, and Steve Ballmer $19.5 billion, according to Forbes in June. Gates' bridge partner Warren Buffet is number two, with $36 billion in Berkshire Hathaway. Eight other Microsoft executives sold another $500 million or so shares in the first half of the year, including $78 million worth by Paul Maritz, who still has more than $200 million of Microsoft shares tucked away for a rainy day, and options on at least 1.3 million shares (currently worth about $120 million) that he has not exercised. He is committed to stay at Microsoft until the end of the year, but vp David Vaskevitch has taken over the daily running of Maritz' developer group, with vp Tod Nielsen being more involved in the technical aspects. Other major US share sellers in the first half of the year were Philip Anschutz, the founder of Qwest, who disposed of $1.573 billion to BellSouth, and Michael Del,l who has sold $681 million. Gates also filed yesterday notice of an intention to sell a further 3 million shares. Microsoft insiders had been lax in filing formal notices with the SEC by the tenth of the month following the transaction, but the trial and the current SEC investigation of Microsoft has changed that. ®

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