Bill Gates’ stake in Ecolab could get bigger

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal
By Ed Stych

Ecolab Inc. moved on Monday to allow Microsoft co-founder and Chairman Bill Gates to increase his ownership stake in the St. Paul company to as much as 25 percent.

Ecolab said in a news release that it has entered into an agreement with Cascade Investment and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust to allow the Gates investment vehicles to acquire up to 25 percent of the maker of hospital and restaurant cleaning products.

Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, currently owns nearly 11 percent of Ecolab. Cascade owns 9.3 percent of the company and the foundation owns 1.5 percent, Ecolab said.

Gates has been a long-time Ecolab shareholder, but became the company's biggest when Cascade bought a significant number of shares last August. Also, Michael Larson, the chief investment officer for Gates' non-Microsoft investments, has been a member of Ecolab's board since February. Larson also is business manager of Kirkland, Wash.-based Cascade.

Under the agreement, the two entities agreed not to seek control of the company or its board.

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