Melinda French Gates Exits Foundation With $12.5 Billion

Melinda French Gates is stepping down as co-chair of the $75 billion foundation she helped run with her former husband, Bill Gates.

Updated13 May 2024
Melinda French Gates Exits Foundation With $12.5 Billion
Melinda French Gates Exits Foundation With $12.5 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- Melinda French Gates is stepping down as co-chair of the $75 billion foundation she helped run with her former husband, Bill Gates.

Her last day will be June 7 and she’ll receive an additional $12.5 billion to use for her own charitable purposes as part of an agreement with her ex-husband, French Gates said Monday in a statement. 

“I am taking this step with full confidence the foundation is in strong shape,” French Gates, 59, said in the statement. “The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy,” which she added will focus on women and families.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — to be known as the Gates Foundation once she departs — is one of the biggest private foundations on the planet, with an $8.6 billion budget for 2024. Bill Gates will become its sole chair, the organization said.

“I am sorry to see Melinda leave, but I am sure she will have a huge impact in her future philanthropic work,” Gates said in a post on X. 

The fate of the foundation’s leadership was thrown into question after the couple announced they were divorcing in May 2021. That July, they said they were setting a two-year deadline to decide whether they could work together, and that if they couldn’t, French Gates would receive money from Gates for her philanthropic work that’s separate from the foundation’s endowment.

Read More: Gateses Have Two Years to Decide If They Can Share Foundation

In September 2022, French Gates said she was “completely committed” to the foundation and working with her ex-husband.

French Gates has her own charity called Pivotal Ventures, which she started in 2015. By the time the couple divorced, Pivotal had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in more than 150 organizations. It uses grants as well as venture capital to focus on empowering women, including getting more females into technology jobs and elected to public office, and advocating paid family leave.

Read More: Gates Foundation Commits $2.1 Billion to Advance Gender Equality

Bill Gates, 68, the former chief executive officer and co-founder of Microsoft Corp., is the world’s fifth-richest person with a fortune of $152.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, while French Gates is worth $13.3 billion.

French Gates, through Pivotal, has also worked with MacKenzie Scott, who became one of the biggest philanthropists in history following her 2019 divorce from Inc. co-founder Jeff Bezos. 

After French Gates’ departure, the foundation’s board will be made up of Gates, CEO Mark Suzman and five other people appointed in the years following the divorce. 

“This is difficult news for me, too,” Suzman wrote in an email to employees Monday. “I truly admire Melinda, and I will deeply miss working with her and learning from her.”

(Updates with additional details throughout.)

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