Bill Gates’ estranged wife, Melinda, has agreed to quit their foundation in two years if the pair cannot work together amid their divorce, their chief executive announced Wednesday.
“Since their [divorce] announcement in May, Bill and Melinda have been true to their word and remained fully engaged in all aspects of the foundation’s work,” chief exec Mark Suzman wrote in an update to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s more than 1,700 employees.
Calling the foundation the couple’s “fourth child,” he insisted that they “have repeatedly made clear their joint commitment and expectation to remain long-term partners and co-chairs.”
“However, as an additional step, they have agreed that if after two years either one of them decides that they cannot continue to work together, Melinda will resign as co-chair and trustee,” he wrote.
If so, “Melinda would receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work” that are completely separate from the foundation’s endowment, Suzman wrote.
Melinda Gates made clear that she wasn’t yet leaving the foundation, if at all.REUTERS
Melinda, 56, insisted that the announcement did not mean she was abandoning her “fourth child” — at least not yet.
“I believe deeply in the foundation’s mission and remain fully committed as co-chair to its work,” she said in the message to staff.
Suzman said Melinda’s possible exit plan came from the Gateses “exploring potential changes to the foundation’s governance and decision-making.”
“These conversations have occurred within the context of their divorce announcement and Warren [Buffet]’s decision to step down as a trustee” last month, he wrote.
Rather than remain the foundation’s sole trustees, “Bill and Melinda have decided to expand the number of trustees,” he revealed.
“The new trustees will bring fresh perspectives, insight, and expertise” and will be chosen by the end of the year, ready for a January 2022 reveal, said Suzman, who has worked at the foundation for 14 years.
The couple also announced that they were contributing an extra $15 billion to the foundation’s endowment, the biggest amount since the $20 billion in Microsoft stock they transferred in 2000. It takes the current endowment to around $65 billion, he said.
“This generous new gift underscores their enduring commitment to the foundation and continued belief in our ability to effect positive change around the world,” Suzman told employees in his note.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will reveal new trustees in January 2022.Getty Images
Bill Gates insisted that the announced changes reflected how “our vision for the foundation has grown over time.”
“These new resources and the evolution of the foundation’s governance will sustain this ambitious mission and vital work for years to come,” he said.