Bill Gates' recent divorce filing is drawing attention to his financial assets. And now investors get a glimpse at his stock picks that are blowing away the S&P 500 and which ones he's willing to part with.
Seven out of the 13 U.S.-listed positions disclosed in Gates' secretive Cascade Investment LLC investment fund, including AutoNation (AN), IBD 50 memberDeere (DE) and Waste Management (WM), are beating the S&P 500 this year so far, based on an Investor's Business Daily analysis of data from S&P Global Market Intelligence and MarketSmith. And four of his big holdings are topping the S&P 500 in the past year.
Gates, who is worth more than $130 billion, remains a large Microsoft shareholder. He's the eighth-largest shareholder in the software giant. His 103.4 million shares, valued at $26 billion, account for 1.3% of Microsoft's shares outstanding. But a majority of his wealth shifted to Cascade Investment over time as he sold Microsoft stock.
"I don't think either Bill or Melinda made a mistake in choosing who to marry — they're both exceptional, high-grade people — but, nevertheless, somehow their marriage fell apart over time," said Whitney Tilson of Empire Financial Research.
All Eyes Are On Cascade
Cascade, owned by Bill Gates but managed by Michael Larson, is already making adjustments.
The firm transferred stock valued at more than $1.8 billion to Melinda Gates this week, says The Wall Street Journal. That included a shift of more than 14 million shares of Canadian National Railway (CNI) and more than 2.9 million shares of AutoNation.
Canadian National is among the largest positions in the Cascade portfolio. And they're not among the top performers lately, rising just 0.1% this year and 37% in the past 12 months. AutoNation, on the other hand, continues to be one of Bill's very best stocks.
The couple filed divorce paperwork in King County Superior Court in Washington State. This is just the start of the division of a massive estate.
Bill Gates' Top S&P 500 Stock: AutoNation
Giving away AutoNation stock was likely a bit painful. It's the top-performing stock in Gates' Cascade Investment fund, by far.
Shares of auto retailer AutoNation are up 49.6% just this year alone. It's Cascade's top-performing stock this year. That tops the S&P 500's 11% gain this year. And over the past 12 months, AutoNation stock is up 184%, absolutely demolishing the 45.3% rise in the S&P 500 during that time. The company is expected to make $9.99 a share this year, up more than 40% from 2020.
It's a big position for Cascade. As of February, AutoNation owned more than 18 million shares or nearly a quarter of the company's shares outstanding.
Gates And Cathie Wood Agree On This S&P 500 Stock: Deere
Here's an interesting coincidence: Gates and star money-manager Cathie Wood of ARK Invest are betting big on Deere. Why do people known for high-tech prowess agree on an agricultural play?
As of the end of last year, Cascade owned owned more than 31 million shares of the farm equipment maker. That's more than 10% of the company's shares outstanding. And it's been a lucrative position, too. Shares of Deere are up 40.8% this year and 180.3% in the past 12 months. IBD Stock Checkup assigns Deere stock a 93 Composite Rating. That puts it among the leaders in the seven-stock farm machinery industry group.
That's helped Deere land a spot in two of Wood's ARK ETFs: ARK Autonomous Technology & Robotics (ARKQ) and ARK Space Exploration & Innovation (ARKX). Deere is the No. 7 holding in ARK Autonomous Technology & Robotics. The fund owns more than 295,000 shares of Deere valued at roughly $112 million.
So while the Gates divorce goes on, at least the couple has some top S&P 500 winners to split.
Gates' Hot Hand With Stocks
Top U.S.-listed stocks held by Cascade Investments