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Melinda French Gates steps down as Gates Foundation co-chair

'The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy,' says Melinda French Gates

Melinda French Gates has said she will step down as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the nonprofit she and her ex-husband Bill Gates founded more than 20 years ago.

“This is not a decision I came to lightly,” French Gates posted 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.”

She praised the foundation’s CEO, Mark Suzman, and the board of trustees, which was significantly expanded after the couple announced their divorce in May 2021.

“The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy,” French Gates wrote in her statement, without giving further details.

French Gates will receive US$12.5 billion as part of her agreement with Gates, which she said would commit to future work focused on women and families. The foundation said US tech giant Microsoft co-founder Gates would supply those funds personally, not from the foundation’s endowment.

A spokesperson said it will change its name to the Gates Foundation.

The foundation is one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health, having spent more than US$75 billion since its inception to bring a business approach to combating poverty and disease.

From 1994 through 2018, Bill and Melinda gifted about US$59.5 billion to the Seattle-based foundation, its website said.

Linsey McGoey, a professor of sociology at the University of Essex and author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, said French Gates’s departure again raises the question of whether power over the foundation should be more widely distributed.

“Should there be more than a tight nucleus of people in charge?” asked McGoey, adding that the foundation controls a great deal of funding that affects people who lack “a democratic pathway” to contest how it’s used.

Gates thanked French Gates for her “critical” contributions to the foundation in a statement, saying: “I am sorry to see her leave, but I am sure she will have a huge impact in her future philanthropic work.”

French Gates, who has a net worth of US$11.3 billion according to Forbes, manages some of her investments and charitable work through her Pivotal Ventures. The investment company, founded in 2015, focuses on women and families.

The billionaire couple parted ways in 2021 after 27 years of marriage but had pledged to continue their philanthropic work together. Their final divorce order filed in a Seattle court had no details on the agreement reached between the two on how to divide their marital assets.

 

 

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