Gates Foundation to sell 550,000 Berkshire shares

ByABC News
March 23, 2008, 12:08 PM

SEATTLE -- The Gates Foundation says it will sell 550,000 Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway, which is run by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, over the next three years beginning April 1. Those shares are now worth $2.39 billion. The plan was adopted so the trust can comply with federal tax rules limiting the amount of stock in a public company that can be owned by a private foundation, the filing said.

Collectively, the foundation and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates own the equivalent of 7.8% of Berkshire Hathaway's Class B stock. Two years ago, Buffett pledged to give away the bulk of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to the Gates Foundation in annual gifts until his death.

Buffett is expected to give 451,250 Class B shares to the foundation this summer as part of his pledge to donate 10 million shares.

Buffett was named the world's richest man earlier this month when Forbes magazine estimated his fortune, which is primarily Berkshire stock, at $62 billion. Gates ranked No. 3 with an estimated net worth of $58 billion.

Berkshire owns more than 60 companies, including insurance, clothing, furniture, jewelry and candy companies, restaurants, natural gas and corporate jet firms and has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch and Wells Fargo.

The Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, is the world's largest philanthropic organization with an endowment of $38.7 billion as of Dec. 31.