Bill Gates Gets OK to Up Stake in Ecolab to 25%

The Microsoft co-founder's investment vehicles already own 10.8 percent of Ecolab, but the St. Paul-based company amended its stockholder rights plan to allow the entities to acquire up to one-fourth of the company's outstanding shares.

Through his investment vehicles, Bill Gates is already the largest shareholder of Ecolab, Inc.

But thanks to a new stockholder agreement, the Microsoft co-founder is now able to boost his ownership stake to 25 percent, Ecolab said Monday.

Gates' Cascade Investment, LLC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust together own 10.8 percent of the St. Paul-based company.

But Ecolab amended its stockholder rights plan so that the entities are permitted to acquire up to one-fourth of the company's outstanding shares.

Under the agreement, if Cascade and the trust were to jointly own at least 15 percent of Ecolab's outstanding shares, they would not seek control of, or encourage others to seek control of, the company or its board. They also would support Ecolab's director nominees, provided that a Cascade representative is given the opportunity to serve as a director.

Cascade's business manager, Michael Larson, currently serves on Ecolab's board.

“Cascade and the Foundation Trust have a demonstrated record of making significant investments in companies for the long-term and being constructive shareholders,” Ecolab Chairman and CEO Douglas M. Baker, Jr., said in a statement. “We have already enjoyed that experience with them over the past two years since they initiated their positions in our company.”