Billionaire Bill Gates has taken a stake in embattled sports retailer JJB, it emerged today.

The Microsoft tycoon made the acquisition through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropic organisation created to “help all people lead healthy, productive lives”.

On Tuesday the foundation, which is also supported by legendary investor Warren Buffett, increased its holding from 7,072,405 shares to 7,872,405 taking the stake to 3.14 per cent. The increase triggered an obligation to disclose the stake which was not previously in the public domain.

The foundation’s investments are made by Michael Larson. According to its website: “Bill and Melinda set high-level direction; Michael and his team choose specific investments.

“Bill and Melinda have directed Michael and his team to diversify the endowment across a broad range of investment vehicles, which means the endowment will, over time, include holdings in all major sectors of the global economy.

“We often receive questions about why a specific investment was made. Because we want to maintain a focus on the programmatic work, we do not comment on individual investment holdings.”

The investment will be taken by JJB Sports bosses as a welcome symbol of faith in the business, which is being turned around by Sir David Jones. Last week Jones was embroiled in controversy over a £1.5m loan from rival Mike Ashley, founder of Sports Direct.

Last year Gates took a stake in Carpetright.