Bill Gates transferred $1.8B in stock to Melinda on day of divorce news

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Bill Gates’ investment firm transferred $1.8 billion in stock to his wife, Melinda, the same day the couple announced their separation after 27 years of marriage.

Cascade Investment, a holding company that the Microsoft co-founder formed to manage much of his financial assets, transferred more than 14 million shares of Canadian National Railway to Melinda Gates on Monday, according to a securities filing.

On the same day, the firm transferred more than 2.9 million shares of AutoNation to Melinda Gates, a separate filing shows.

Based on Wednesday’s stock prices, the Canadian National Railway holdings are worth more than $1.5 billion and the shares of AutoNation, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company that sells cars, are valued at over $300 million.

The transferred shares represent more than 3 percent of all outstanding AutoNation stock, and about 2 percent for that of The Canadian National Railway.

The transfers are among the first indications of how one of the world’s wealthiest couples will go about divvying up their assets as they separate.

The couple’s divorce petition, which was filed Monday in King County Superior Court in Washington state, indicated that they don’t have a prenuptial agreement to distribute their estimated $130 billion in assets.

Instead, the two have signed a separation contract for dividing their property and possessions, but the terms of that agreement have not been publicly disclosed in court documents.

Cascade Investment, which reportedly manages a whopping $30 billion of Gates’ personal financial holdings, will be one of the key assets to watch.

Another important asset category at stake is the couple’s ownership of American farmland.

Gates owns nearly 270,000 acres, or 422 square miles, of land across more than a dozen states, according to a January investigation by The Land Report of the largely hidden investments. Divorce proceedings could reveal more about Gates’ role as the biggest owner of farmland in the country.

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