Gates charity to sell 60 million Berkshire shares, as Buffett urged

Businessman Bill Gates exits through the lobby at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - The foundation created by billionaire Bill Gates and his wife Melinda plans to sell 60 million Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.N donated by Warren Buffett, reflecting the fellow billionaire' s desire that proceeds be spent on charitable works.

In a regulatory filing on Tuesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said the sales would occur from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020, under a plan similar to one expiring on June 30, 2017.

Sixty million Class B shares of Berkshire are currently worth about $9.6 billion.

The Gates Foundation, which works to improve education and health and reduce poverty worldwide, is the largest beneficiary of Buffett’s 2006 commitment to donate nearly all of his wealth to charity.

The foundation, which received more than $2.1 billion of Berkshire stock last year, said it owns about 68.71 million Class B shares, worth roughly $11 billion.

Bill Gates is a co-founder of Microsoft Corp MSFT.O and a director of Berkshire. Buffett is also donating Berkshire shares to four family charities.

In the HBO documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett” scheduled to air on Jan. 30, Buffett explained why he is giving away his fortune, estimated on Wednesday by Forbes magazine at $71.6 billion despite more than $24.3 billion of donations so far.

“In my entire lifetime, everything that I’ve spent will be quite a bit less than 1 percent of everything I make. The other 99 percent plus will go to others because it has no utility to me,” Buffett said. “So it’s silly for me to not transfer that utility to people who can use it.”

The Gates Foundation will sell its Berkshire shares through a 10b5-1 program, named for a federal rule allowing periodic share sales by executives and other insiders without raising the specter of insider trading.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe