At his current pace, Bill Gates won’t own any Microsoft shares in a couple of years

Why the rush, Bill?
Why the rush, Bill?
Image: Rick Wilking/Reuters
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Bill Gates has a long history of giving up his Microsoft shares. In 1986, when the company went public, Gates held 45% (pdf) of its shares; in 1996, his stake had nearly halved to 24%; and now, with his latest 64-million-share donation, he’s down to a mere 1.3%, according to Bloomberg. (On the other hand, his 45% in 1986 was worth $350 million, and his 1.3% today is worth around $7.3 billion.)

The trend is in large part due to Bill and Melinda Gates’ philanthropic activities. In 2010, they established the Giving Pledge along with fellow billionaire Warren Buffett to commit the majority of their wealth to charity. And since 1994, Bloomberg reports, the couple has gifted roughly $35 billion in stocks and cash.

But Gates hasn’t only been donating shares to charity. SEC filings show that between his gift-giving, Gates has been gradually selling off shares for at least the last four years (as far back as SEC’s full-text search database goes). Before giving a large gift of 31 million shares in November of 2014, he was selling roughly 100 million shares per year. After that gift, the annual rate dropped to around 57 million. At this rate, with a little over 100 million shares left to his name, according to his last SEC filing, the tech mogul will have no more stock in his company by the middle of 2019.