As other investors bailed out of cable stocks last week, Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates gave the sector a boost when it was disclosed that he more than doubled his personal holdings in Cox Communications Inc.
According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission July 29, Gates — through his personal investment vehicle, Cascade Investment LLC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable organization he controls — has increased his personal stake in Cox to 33.5 million shares.
According to the SEC document, Cascade held 24.3 million Cox shares and the foundation had about 9.2 million shares, or about 5.8 percent of Cox's outstanding stock. In an SEC statement earlier this year, Gates disclosed he held about 13.5 million shares of Cox stock through both Cascade and the foundation.
The news appeared to have an effect on Cox stock, which rose as high as $27.82 on July 30 (up $1.52, or 6 percent), before closing at $27 (up 70 cents, or 3 percent).
That marked the second day of gains for Cox. Its shares closed at $26.30 on July 29, up $2.38.
Based on Tuesday's close, Gates's holdings in Cox were worth about $904.5 million.
Other cable stocks also appeared affected, with Cablevision Systems Corp. up 16 percent, or $1.29, to $9.05 on July 30. Charter Communications Inc. was up 21 cents to $3.82; Comcast rose 57 cents to $21.17; Insight Communications Co. was up 50 cents to $9.30 and Mediacom Communications Corp. increased 74 cents to $6.01.
Rounding out the sector were AOL Time Warner Inc. (up 82 cents to $12.40) and AT&T Corp. (up 26 cents to $10).
Gates is no stranger to cable, as Microsoft invested about $1 billion in Comcast Corp. in 1998 and agreed to buy $5 billion in convertible AT&T Corp. preferred stock in 1999. Most recently, the software giant was rumored to be backing Cox in its failed bid for AT&T Broadband last year. AT&T Broadband agreed to be acquired by Comcast Corp. in December — the merger is expected to close by the end of the year — and Microsoft agreed to convert its preferred stake into 115 million common shares of AT&T Comcast Corp.