May 5, 2021

-The Globe And Mail


Microsoft Corp. cofounder Bill Gates’ investment fund has transferred 14 million shares of Canadian National Railway Co. worth about $1.8-billion to Melinda French Gates, shortly after the couple announced their divorce.

The move makes Ms. Gates the sixth-biggest shareholder in CN, Canada’s largest railway, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon data.

Mr. Gates’ Cascade Investment LLC remains CN’s largest shareholder, with more than 101 million shares worth C$13.5-billion. The couple’s charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, owns 13.9 million shares of CN.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission posted on May 4, Cascade said it transferred to Ms.Gates “for no consideration” the CN shares and three million shares of AutoNation Inc., worth US$315-million, based on today’s share price.

The Gates foundation and Cascade did not respond to requests for comment. CN declined to comment.

CN is the biggest investment held by Cascade, representing 24.4 per cent of its holdings. Waste disposal company Republic Services Inc. is Cascade’s second-largest stake at 23.9 per cent, while heavy equipment make Deere and Co. is third, at 18 per cent.

CN’s share price has risen by 18 per cent to about $133 in the past 12 months on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The railway is embroiled in a competition with Calgary rival Canadian Pacific Railway Co. to buy U.S. railway Kansas City Southern. CN has outbid CP with an offer of US$29.9-billion, and is seeking the support of KCS’s board of directors.

The Gates filed for divorce on Monday after 27 years of marriage, raising questions about the future of the philanthropic foundation they created 20 years ago. The foundation employs 1,600 people and has given more than US$55-billion to health, hunger and education causes in developing countries and the United States, including farmers in Africa and underprivileged students in Los Angeles.

The foundation plans no changes and the Gates will remain cochairs and trustees, a foundation executive told employees, the New York Times reported.