• Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Melinda French Gates Is Leaving the Gates Foundation. What’s Next?

Melinda French Gates Is Leaving the Gates Foundation. What’s Next?

The philanthropist is resigning as co-chair of the Gates Foundation. Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Melinda French Gates, a major philanthropic player who created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation alongside her former husband, Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates, is leaving the organization to pursue her own charitable endeavors. She will do so armed with a $12.5 billion payout and an eye toward issues affecting women and families.

“After careful thought and reflection, I have decided to resign from my role as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” announced French Gates today (May 13) in a post on X, adding that her last day at the foundation will be June 7. “This is not a decision I came to lightly.”

Gates and French Gates, who have respective fortunes of $130.3 billion and $11.3 billion, founded the philanthropic organization in 2000 and have donated a total of $59.5 billion toward it as of last year. One of the world’s largest foundations with an endowment of $75.2 billion and more than 2,000 employees, it has funneled billions towards global development and health initiatives fighting tuberculosis, polio, malaria and AIDS globally. “I am sorry to see Melinda leave, but I am sure she will have a huge impact in her future philanthropic work,” said Gates, who will become the organization’s sole chair, in a statement.

The couple finalized their divorce in 2021 following 27 years of marriage. At the time, they agreed to conduct a two-year trial co-chairing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the condition that French Gates would resign if either one decided they could no longer work together. While French Gates in 2023 confirmed her intentions to remain with the foundation, her recent decision to leave was spurred on by a desire to reshape her future charitable plans with a focus on women’s rights, according to a statement from the organization’s CEO Mark Suzman, who confirmed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be officially renamed the Gates Foundation.

French Gates will pursue her own philanthropic goals with $12.5 billion

The 2021 contingency plan also stipulated that French Gates would receive personal funds from Gates outside of the foundation’s endowment that would be earmarked for philanthropic endeavors if she left. Under the terms of this agreement, she is set to receive an additional $12.5 billion in funding. “This is a critical moment for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world—and those fighting to protect and advance equity are in urgent need of support,” said French Gates. “I’ll be sharing more about what that will look like in the near future.”

Even though gender equality is a key area of the Gates Foundation initiatives, French Gates will “not be bringing any of the foundation’s work with her when she leaves,” said Suzman. The philanthropist’s personal charitable efforts have included teaming up with MacKenzie Scott—who also struck out on her own philanthropic path after divorcing Amazon (AMZN)’s Jeff Bezos—and other donors to pledge $45 million last year toward revitalizing Seattle’s waterfront.

Her primary alternative channel for philanthropic giving, however, is the firm Pivotal Ventures. She founded it in 2015 with an overarching mission to advance equality; pledging $1 billion of her own money to the organization in 2019 and creating a philanthropic arm known as the Pivotal Philanthropies Foundation in 2022 to support its grantmaking. The firm’s goals of improving women’s lives via access to capital and advancing female careers in public office have been reflected in recent op-eds written by French Gates for Bloomberg and Time respectively.

In addition to co-founding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates and French Gates in 2010 also launched the Giving Pledge, a campaign advocating for the wealthy to donate the bulk of their fortunes to charity, alongside Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)’s Warren Buffett. In an individual Giving Pledge letter written post-divorce in 2021, French Gates emphasized that Pivotal Ventures would play a significant role in her future philanthropic plans. “In the last two decades, I’ve seen that, at its best, philanthropy plays a unique role in driving progress by taking investment risks that others can’t or won’t to explore new ways of solving old problems,” she said in the letter, adding that “my giving will continue to focus on the people for whom barriers to equality are the highest.”

What Melinda French Gates’s Philanthropy Could Look Like Post-Gates Foundation

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