Microsoft bought 2% of Cox stock in October
So Microsoft did invest in a cable company eyeing an AT&T acquisition. An October filing shows Microsoft's Bill Gates bought 13.5 million shares in Cox Communications.
According to a Cox U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Gates picked up the stock from privately held Cox Enterprises. Gates' private investment firm, Cascade Investment LLC, purchased 8.1 million shares for $299.4 million, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation purchased the other 5.4 million for $199.6 million.
Cox spokeswoman Laura Oberhelman says the purchase represents about 2 percent of Cox's outstanding shares.
"It's a passive investment," she says. Gates won't be part of management.
AT&T Corp. had been taking bids on its broadband unit since July, when Comcast Corp. made an unsolicited bid valued roughly at $43 billion. Other players who'd reportedly signed the confidentiality agreements required by AT&T to bid included AOL Time Warner, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications.
In mid-December, Microsoft reportedly was to back two of the smaller bidders, to stave off AOLTW's bid for the division. In late December, AT&T accepted a $72 billion bid from Comcast, which must pass regulatory scrutiny.
Oberhelman says the two are not connected.
They happened at the same time, she says, but, "They're two completely separate issues. It's a personal investment made by the Gates'. They've chosen to put some (investment) in us. We're happy they did."
Yesterday, the SEC posted the filing regarding the Oct. 22 deal.
Microsoft has a much documented interest in supporting the cable industry; it has also invested $5 billion in AT&T Broadband and $1 billion in Comcast.