RealTime IT News

Gates Took Stake in Cox Communications

Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, has been quietly adding cable networks to his personal portfolio of investments.

An amended 10Q filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission by Cox Communications Inc. officials recently shows Gates bought 5.4 million shares last October through his non-profit organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

That gives Gates, through the foundation and a previous stock bid through his private investment group, Cascade Investment LLC, 13.5 million shares in the country's fifth-largest cable network.

Laura Oberhelman, a Cox spokesperson, said the amended filing and the fact it was reported by many of the news wire agencies, is much ado about nothing.

"Gates' total investment in the company is only around 2 percent," she said. "He is a person who believes broadband is the future of the Internet. This (investment) is nothing more than that."

With 600 million shares available, Cox is in no danger of becoming a Gates mouthpiece. Cascade's investment is 8.11 million shares (for $299.4 million), Oberhelman said, while the foundation bought up only 5.4 million shares (for $199.6 million). A foundation can own up to 20 percent of an organization before it runs afoul of tax laws.

Cox officials say the Gates investments aren't related to their failed bid to acquire AT&T Broadband last year, in which rival Comcast Corp. eventually prevailed.

In light of other cable network investments, Gates stake in Cox is minute. In early 1995, he invested $1 billion in Comcast and his company invested $5 billion in AT&T Broadband last year in its own attempt to keep AT&T separate from the other cable companies and have a significant voice in Ma Bell's cable enterprise.