Melinda French Gates could leave Gates Foundation after divorce

July 7, 2021, 4:18 PM UTC

The Gates Foundation laid out its leadership and governance plans on Wednesday for the years following the divorce of philanthropists Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates.

The separated couple, whose foundation has an endowment of $50 billion that has been critical to funding global health and other causes, said at the time of their divorce announcement in May that they would continue to work together as co-chairs of their 21-year-old charitable organization. But now the pair have agreed that if “either decides they cannot continue to work together as co-chairs” after two years, French Gates will resign as co-chair and trustee. The foundation announced the plan in a press release.

French Gates has focused much of her philanthropy, activism, and investment on the issue of gender equality, including through her firm Pivotal Ventures, which is separate from the Gates Foundation. The foundation, however, committed $2.1 billion to gender equality initiatives last week.

If French Gates were to resign from the foundation, she “would receive personal resources from Gates for her philanthropic work,” the organization said. The resources “would be completely separate from the foundation’s endowment.”

The foundation emphasized that this plan is intended as a fail-safe backup plan to ensure the continuity of the organization’s work. In addition to this strategy regarding the charity’s namesakes, the foundation will add an unspecified number of trustees from outside the family; the trustees are expected to be announced in January 2022. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett resigned as the foundation’s third trustee—the only one in place besides Bill and Melinda—last month.

“I am deeply proud of all that the foundation and its partners have accomplished over the past two decades to bring us closer to a world where everyone, everywhere has the chance to live a healthy and productive life,” French Gates said in a statement. “These governance changes bring more diverse perspectives and experience to the foundation’s leadership. I believe deeply in the foundation’s mission and remain fully committed as cochair to its work.”

Alongside this news, the Gates Foundation announced that its founders will contribute an additional $15 billion to the organization’s endowment. “These new resources and the evolution of the foundation’s governance will sustain this ambitious mission and vital work for years to come,” Bill Gates said in a statement.

French Gates and Gates, the Microsoft founder, filed for divorce in May—a decision reportedly considered by French Gates since 2019. The divorce will divide up their roughly $130 billion fortune.

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