Last Updated 03 | 05 | 2014 at 20:30

Business & Technology

Bill Gates to sell off all his shares in Microsoft by 2018

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Bill Gates, the former chief executive and chairman of Microsoft, may be on the course to sell all his shares in the company he co-founded by 2018 if he keeps up his shares sales.

Gates, who started the company with school-friend Paul Allen in 1975 and revolutionized personal computing, has sold 20m shares each quarter for most of the last 12 years under a pre-set trading plan.

Assuming this pattern won’t change, Gates will have no longer own any part of Microsoft four years from now.

Gates was eclipsed as Microsoft’s largest shareholder by the company’s other former chief executive, Steve Ballmer, who although retired, has held fast to his part of the stock.

Both men now have around 4% each of the total outstanding shares, making them by far the biggest individual shareholders. Fund firms The Vanguard Group, State Street Global Advisors and BlackRock have slightly bigger stakes, according to Thomson Reuters.

Gates and Microsoft declined to comment.

Gates previously owned 49% of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multi-millionaire. With Microsoft's explosive growth, he soon became the world's richest person, and has retained that title ever since with a fortune of about $77bn today, according to Forbes magazine.

Gates handed the CEO role to Ballmer in 2000, and stood down as chairman in February. He remains on the board and spends about a third of his time as technology adviser to new Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

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