Xero director Craig Winkler, who founded rival accounting software firm MYOB, says he sold down his stake in the cloud-based software firm as part of a 10-year plan to liquidate assets to fund philanthropic pursuits.

Winkler sold 3 million shares on and off market at an average $22.63 apiece for a total of $67.9 million yesterday through First NZ Capital, a notice to the stock exchange shows. That was a discount to the $23.20 closing price yesterday. Winkler bought into Xero in 2009, paying 90 cents apiece for 20 million shares. Including yesterday's sale, Winkler now owns 14.5 million shares, or 10.5 per cent of Xero, having sold down his stake in three different transactions at $2.75 a share, $6 a share, and $20 a share in the past five years.

The shares are held through Givia Pty, a private charitable trust whose assets Winkler plans to distribute over a 10-year period, Xero said in a statement. The advance notice is to minimise the impact on the market. Xero shares rose 1.9 per cent to $23.65 at the open of the NZX today.

"As a long-standing member of the Xero board, I have more confidence than ever in Xero," Winkler said in an emailed statement. "The early faith that our charitable trust placed in the Xero team will facilitate our continued philanthropic giving."


Winkler took a cornerstone stake in Xero a year after leaving MYOB in 2008. He co-founded that company in 1991 before selling into a private equity takeover. Over that time, Xero's shareholder register has expanded to 16,321 from just 1,757, and the Wellington-based company now counts Australia as the home to more than half its shareholders owning 19 per cent of its stock, and 17 per cent of its workforce.

Xero chief executive Rod Drury said Winkler's sale will provide a larger free float and increased liquidity for the company, which has been attracting "leading global and regional institutional investors" to take holdings in the software developer. Most recently that's seen Silicon Valley tech investor TCV buy shares from US hedge fund manager Matrix Capital Management, which took a substantial stake in Xero five years ago.