United States

Melinda French Gates To Leave Gates Foundation, Keeps $12.5 Billion For Own Charity Work

Melinda French Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will step down as co-chair, focusing on her philanthropic efforts outside the foundation. Her departure follows her divorce from Bill Gates.

Melinda French Gates

Melinda French Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced her decision to step down as co-chair of the philanthropic powerhouse she helped build with her ex-husband, Bill Gates, over the past two decades. The nonprofit, which stands as one of the world’s largest philanthropic organizations, will see French Gates’ departure officially on June 7.

“This is not a decision I came to lightly,” stated French Gates in a message shared on 'X' on Monday. “I am immensely proud of the foundation that Bill and I built together and of the extraordinary work it is doing to address inequities around the world.”

French Gates expressed her confidence in the foundation’s CEO, Mark Suzman, and the expanded board of trustees, which underwent significant changes following the couple’s divorce announcement in May 2021.

Acknowledging the transition, French Gates wrote, “The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy,” highlighting her existing organization, Pivotal Ventures, which operates outside the nonprofit realm.

Bill Gates, in a separate statement, expressed gratitude for French Gates’ “critical” contributions, noting her impending departure while affirming her continued impact in future philanthropic endeavours.

In light of the change, the foundation will rebrand as the Gates Foundation, a spokesperson confirmed.

As part of her agreement with Gates, French Gates will receive $12.5 billion, earmarked for her future endeavours with a focus on women and families. Notably, these funds will be supplied personally by Gates, separate from the foundation’s endowment.

The Gates Foundation boasts significant global health funding, supporting key institutions such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Its scope extends to research on child malnutrition, maternal health, climate change adaptation for small farmers, and more.

In the US, the foundation has influenced education policy and research, with plans to bolster antipoverty initiatives moving forward.

French Gates’ departure, though surprising to many, reflects a strategic move. Latanya Mapp, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, noted French Gates’ efforts in embedding a gender equity perspective within the foundation’s programs, ensuring continuity post-her tenure.

However, the shift reignites discussions about the foundation’s governance structure. Linsey McGoey, a sociology professor and author, raised questions about the concentration of power within a select group and advocated for a wider distribution of influence.

Mark Suzman, addressing employees, affirmed French Gates’ decision, citing her desire to combat the rollback of women’s rights globally. He recognized her advocacy as a driving force for many joining the foundation.

With an endowment totalling $75.2 billion as of December 2023, the Gates Foundation reaffirmed its commitment to extensive spending, announcing plans to allocate $8.6 billion in 2024 to advance its mission.