Gates Stake Lifts Liberty Satellite

Washington— Liberty Satellite & Technology Inc., a publicly traded subsidiary of Liberty Media Group, got a lift last week when it was revealed that Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates has a personal stake in the company.

Gates' personal investment vehicle — Cascade Investment LLC — filed documents April 16 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which Cascade stated that it owns about 5.1 million shares, or 7.8 percent, of Liberty Satellite.

Liberty Satellite stock rose more than 50 cents per share on the news, closing April 16 at $3.14 per share — its highest level in about a month.

It could not be determined from the filing when Cascade Investment purchased the Liberty Satellite stock or how much it paid.

Liberty Satellite shares are down about 84 percent from last year. The company — formerly TCI Satellite Entertainment — had originally been a holding company for Liberty Media's interest in PrimeStar Inc., the direct- broadcast satellite service that was sold to DirecTV Inc. in 1999.

TCI Satellite was renamed Liberty Satellite last year, with Liberty Media receiving an 89.4 percent interest in the company in exchange for about 5 million shares of Sprint PCS stock, worth then at about $300 million.

Liberty Satellite, traded on the over-the-counter bulletin board, mainly invests in satellite communications companies. Its investments include XM Satellite Radio, Sky Latin America, Astrolink LLC and Wildblue Communications Inc. Liberty Satellite also owns less than 1 percent of Hughes Electronics Corp. stock and interests in several wireless high-speed data start-ups, such as Prairie iNet LLC and Netbeam Inc.

In February, Liberty Satellite scratched plans to be listed on the NASDAQ national market system, mainly because its stock did not meet the minimum bid price requirement for NASDAQ-listed shares of $5 each.