Bill Gates sold more than $1.5 billion in Microsoft stock this year, making him the top inside seller of 2015. An analysis by Sqoop.com shows Gates is followed at a distance by Google’s owners along with founders or executives from at least eight other tech companies on the 20-person list.
Larry Page of Google was the runner-up with $868 million in sales, closely followed by fellow co-founder Sergey Brin at $857 million. Jan Koum, CEO of WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, sold $561 million worth of stock to land in fourth place. Rounding out the top five is Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, who gave up $534 million for the year. There are no women on this year's list.
A few retail executives made it into the top 10 on a ranking otherwise crowded by tech entrepreneurs. Best Buy founder and CEO Richard Schulze and Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine both traded in more than $200 million. Further down but still among the top 20 sellers are John Martin, CEO of a pharmaceutical company called Gilead Sciences, who sold $205 million in stock, and Charles Schwab of the investment firm with $193 million in sales.
The Sqoop analysis runs through Dec. 5 and does not specify whether the stock sales were preplanned. Large sales by executives and founders cannot be interpreted as a sign of trouble for companies. In Gates’ case, he actually sold about $2.2 billion less stock this year than he did in 2014, reports Geekwire. The data is pulled from filings that executives are legally required to make with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission when they sell stock. This practice is legal, and they are expected to base trades only on information that is also available to all other shareholders.
Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and built it into a leading company for software and personal computers. He transitioned out of running the day-to-day business in 2008 to spend more time on philanthropy through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and served as chairman of the board until 2014.