Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the fourth richest man in the world, has also become the biggest shareholder in Canada’s largest railway.
Since 2006, Gates has amassed a sizeable ownership stake in Canadian National Railway Co. through Cascade Investment LLC (an investment firm solely owned by Gates), buying some 101 million shares, coming out to almost 15% of the company's stock. Another 13 million shares are owned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, meaning that Gates has 16.36 percent ownership stake in CN through both these sources. His investment is valued at $16.3 billion.
The Western Producer, in an interview with Barry Prentice, professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba, said that railways are popular investments for billionaires like Gates. Warren Buffet, another of the world's richest men, owns the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., the largest freight railroad in North America.
“Just imagine owning a railway. Who could dream of that?” he said. Prentice stated that "railways are asset-heavy investments that are a good hedge against inflation. People like that who have a lot of wealth, they want to put it into something that’s going to hold value.”
Sustainability may have also incentivized Gates to invest in CN, reported Prentice. The railway was recently ranked 10th on the Corporate Knights 2021 Global 100 index of the most sustainable corporations in the world. It is the only railway on the list. Prentice called railways sustainable compared to other forms of transportation "due to the low rolling resistance of steel on steel."