Melinda French Gates will resign from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in two years if she or ex-husband Bill Gates decide they can’t work together anymore, the foundation said Wednesday. The news about the possible shift in Gates Foundation leadership came along with an announcement that Bill and Melinda have committed $15 billion in new funds to the organization.
Both Bill and Melinda are committed to remaining co-chairs of the foundation following their surprise divorce announcement in May, but they agreed to the two-year contingency plan to “ensure the continuity of the foundation’s work,” according to a statement from the foundation. If French Gates does step down as co-chair and trustee, she would receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work, which is focused on gender equality. Those resources would be “completely separate from the foundation’s endowment, which would not be affected,” the foundation said.
In addition to Bill and Melinda’s agreement, even more changes are coming to the Gates Foundation. CEO Mark Suzman said the foundation will add additional trustees to oversee its work. Right now, there are only two trustees—Bill and Melinda—after Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett resigned from his role last month. It’s unclear how many trustees the foundation will add or who those individuals will be, but Suzman said he expects the new trustees to be announced in January 2022.
“These governance changes bring more diverse perspectives and experience to the foundation’s leadership,” French Gates said in a statement. “I believe deeply in the foundation’s mission and remain fully committed as co-chair to its work.”
Despite the shakeup, Bill and Melinda are attempting to quell any worries about their commitment going forward. Also on Wednesday, the pair announced an additional $15 billion gift to the foundation, which would bring its total endowment to $65 billion, the foundation said. It’s the single-largest donation from Bill and Melinda since the pair transferred $20 billion in Microsoft stock to the foundation in 2000 at its launch, according to the foundation. It’s unclear if the $15 billion will be transferred to the foundation over a period of several years or if the money has already been transferred. A spokesperson for the Gates Foundation has not yet replied to a request for comment.
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Bill Gates is currently the fourth-richest person in the world with a net worth of $129.2 billion, according to Forbes. As part of their separation agreement, Bill has already transferred $3.1 billion worth of securities to Melinda, making her a billionaire in her own right.
For the last two decades, Bill and Melinda have turned the Gates Foundation into the largest private charitable foundation in the world, amassing considerable influence on a global scale in public health, education and global development. But the future of the foundation was called into question following news of the divorce. According to the Wall Street Journal, Melinda began consulting divorce lawyers as far back as 2019 after she found out about Bill’s meetings with deceased sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. Additionally, a spokesperson for Bill admitted he had an affair with a Microsoft employee in 2000, which the company’s board investigated in 2019, also according to the Wall Street Journal. Bill stepped down from Microsoft’s board before the probe was completed, though the spokesperson denies he did so because of the investigation.