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Sep 17, 2020

Bill Gates liquidates stake in largest McDonald's franchisee

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. The New Economy Forum, organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, aims to bring together leaders from public and private sectors to find solutions to the world's greatest challenges.

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Bill Gates’s investment firm sold its shares in the world’s largest independent McDonald’s Corp. franchisee, exiting a holding owned for more than five years.

Cascade Investment no longer owns shares in Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc., having previously held a stake of about seven per cent in the company now worth almost US$40 million, filings show. The Microsoft Corp. co-founder’s charitable trust, which previously held about 2.4 per cent, also sold its shares.

Cascade Investment and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation first invested in Arcos Dorados, an operator of McDonald’s stores across Latin America and the Caribbean, in early 2014. Shares in the Montevideo, Uruguay-based company -- whose name means “Golden Arches” in Spanish -- have since fallen by more than half. In August, Arcos Dorados reported a 60 per cent drop in revenue for the three months ended June 30 from a year earlier, hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Shares of Arcos Dorados slid about one per cent to US$4.27 at 10:59 a.m. in New York, and have tumbled 47 per cent this year.

Gates, 64, has parlayed the proceeds of Microsoft into a global empire of listed assets through Cascade Investment, ranging from railroads to agricultural businesses and construction firms. The Kirkland, Washington-based family office boosted its holding last month in private jet services company Signature Aviation PLC and was among the big winners of Vroom Inc.’s June initial public offering, when the used-car sales platform more than doubled in its first day of trading. Gates has a net worth of US$123 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

A spokesman for Arcos Dorados declined to comment, while representatives for the Gates family didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.