Bill Gates has donated 64m Microsoft shares to charity in the world’d biggest donation this year. Photograph: Kamil Zihnioglu/AP
Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, has donated $4.6bn (£3.6bn) in the Microsoft founder’s biggest gift to charity since he set up the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates donated 64m Microsoft shares according to a US Securities & Exchange Commission filing. The recipient of the gift was not specified but it is expected that the money will be directed to the foundation he and his wife set up in 2000 with $5bn funding to improve global healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. The foundation did not respond to requests for comment.
The shares donated represent about 5% of his current $90bn fortune. The gift reduces Gates’s stake in Microsoft, which the 61-year-old co-founded in 1975, to just 1.3% from 24% in 1996.
Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $35bn since 1994. They donated $16bn worth of Microsoft shares in 1999 and followed it up with another $5.1bn a year later. The Gates Foundation has grown to become the world’s largest private charity with $40.3bn of funds, before the latest gift.
This latest donation is the biggest charitable gift made anywhere in the world so far this year, overtaking a $3.2bn contribution by investor Warren Buffett to the Gates foundation last month.
In 2010 the Gates and Warren Buffett created the Giving Pledge, a promise to give at least half of their wealth to charity, and called on other billionaires to join them. More than 170 of the world’s richest people, including Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg and George Lucas, have so far signed up.
Gates said the pledge was “about building on a wonderful tradition of philanthropy that will ultimately help the world become a much better place”.
Last year the billionaire told ITV’s This Morning that it was “not a favour” to give his three children huge sums. “It distorts anything they might do, creating their own path.
“This money is dedicated to helping the poorest. They know that, they are proud of that, they go on trips with us to see the work that’s being done.”
Gates has been the richest man on the planet since 2013 – apart from a very brief blip last month when Amazon’s Jeff Bezos overtook him for a couple of hours as the technology company’s shares spiked before falling back.
Bezos, who founded Amazon in 1994, is worth $84.3bn and has seen his fortune increase by $18.9bn so far this year according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index. Bezos, who has used his wealth to invest in space travel and to buy the Washington Post, has not signed up to the Giving Pledge. Bezos has said that in matters of philanthropy he is drawn to the “right now”, rather than the long-term, approach.