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Bill Gate’s Cascade Investment and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation disclosed, in a regulator filing, raising their stake in the largest U.S. auto parts retailer AutoNation, Inc. (NYSE:AN) to 10%. In July 17, ‘08, Gates revealed a 5.5% stake in AutoNation, also through Cascade and his foundation trust, which together at the time held 9,903,588 shares.

AutoNation’s stock has plunged nearly 60% year-to-date, being driven down by a softening economy and consumer pullback. But Gates is apparently using the current weak economic conditions to increase his stake in the auto retailer from 5.5%, 9.9 million shares, to 10%, or 17,757,788 shares.

Billionaire investor Edward S. Lampert, a former AutoNation director who is already the company’s largest shareholder, also disclosed that he raised his stake in AutoNation to 45%, or 79,587,656 shares. Between the two, they own 55% of the shares outstanding of the auto parts retailer.

This month AutoNation reported a net loss of $1.40 billion, or $7.95 per share for the third quarter. Net income came in at $44 million or $0.25 per share, compared to $73 million or $0.37 per share year-over-year.

AutoNation has 322 new vehicle franchises from 245 dealerships located in 16 states with a range of U.S., Asian and European automobile brands. It ranks No. 1 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 dealership groups in the U.S. with retail sales of nearly 329,00 new vehicles in fiscal ‘07. The company was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

AutoNation shares rose on Monday $0.73, or 11.32% to $7.18 rtq. AN has traded between $3.97 and $19.59 over the past year.

Source: Bill Gates Raises His Stake in AutoNation to 10%