Bill Gates could oust Melinda French Gates from their foundation in 2023

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CNN 07 July, 2021 - 04:06pm 20 views

Melinda French Gates, the wife of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for 27 years, will resign as co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation if after two years either of the two concludes that they cannot work together as co-chairs, the foundation said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes two months after the duo announced their split but said they would keep collaborating at the foundation, one of the world's wealthiest.

If Melinda French Gates does leave, then Bill Gates would give her "personal resources" for philanthropic purposes that would be separate from funding for the foundation, the foundation said in a statement.

Since its launch in 2000, the foundation has served as a symbol of the couple's efforts to spend money on education, health care and other areas. Most recently, the foundation has poured money into coronavirus vaccine development.

The foundation said the two have together committed $14 billion in fresh money to the organization, which spent over $5 billion in 2019. It's the single largest donation from them since they contributed $20 billion in Microsoft stock in 2000, and it now raises the endowment to $65 billion, Mark Suzman, the foundation's CEO, wrote in a note to employees.

The Gateses said have agreed to increase the number of trustees, the foundation said. Currently they and Warren Buffett are the only trustees, and Buffett announced plans to resign as a trustee in June.

"I'm grateful to the foundation's leadership team, employees, and partners for their dedication to making the world healthier and more just," Bill Gates wrote in a tweet following the announcement.

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Bill Gates Can Remove Melinda French Gates From Foundation in Two Years

The New York Times 07 July, 2021 - 03:15pm

Following their divorce, they will continue to work together for now at the foundation, which they gave an additional $15 billion in resources, and will add new independent trustees.

Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates have at times referred to the foundation they established together as their “fourth child.” If over the next two years they can’t find a way to work together following their planned divorce, Mr. Gates will get full custody.

That was one of the most important takeaways from a series of announcements about the future of the world’s largest charitable foundation made on Wednesday by its chief executive, Mark Suzman, overshadowing an injection of an additional $15 billion in resources that will be added to the $50 billion previously amassed in its endowment over two decades.

“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,” Mr. Suzman said in a message to foundation employees Wednesday. If that happens, he added, Ms. French Gates “would receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work” separate from the foundation’s endowment.

The money at stake underscores the strange mix of public significance — in global health, poverty reduction and gender equality among other important areas — and private affairs that attends any move made by the first couple of philanthropy, even after the announcement of their split. The foundation plans to add additional trustees outside their close circle, a step toward better governance that philanthropy experts had urged for years.

When they announced their divorce in May, Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates noted the importance of the work done by the foundation they had built together and said they “continue to share a belief in that mission.” In the announcement Wednesday, each echoed those sentiments. “These new resources and the evolution of the foundation’s governance will sustain this ambitious mission and vital work for years to come,” Mr. Gates said in a statement.

Ms. French Gates emphasized the importance of expanding the board. “These governance changes bring more diverse perspectives and experience to the foundation’s leadership,” Ms. French Gates said in a statement. “I believe deeply in the foundation’s mission and remain fully committed as co-chair to its work.”

In the immediate aftermath of the divorce announcement, it was unclear how they would share control of the institution. Wednesday’s announcement indicated that if they cannot work out their differences, it is the Microsoft co-founder Mr. Gates who will maintain control, as he essentially buys his ex-wife out of the foundation.

Mr. Suzman said he did not know how much she would get if it came to that. But any payout would likely be significant.

Public records show that billions of dollars’ worth of stock have already been transferred into Ms. French Gates’s name since the divorce was announced. She pursues her own priorities through a separate organization known as Pivotal Ventures. Mr. Gates also has his own group, Gates Ventures.

Less than a year ago, the Gates Foundation was run by Mr. Gates, Ms. French Gates, his father and one of his closest friends, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett. It was a remarkable concentration of power for one of the most influential institutions in the world, a $50 billion private foundation that works in every corner of the globe.

The restructuring announced Wednesday could begin the process of making the Gates Foundation more responsive to the people its mission aims to help and loosen the grip on the reins that its founders have held for more than two decades.

“We’re trying to do this in a very careful and deliberate manner, thinking for the long term,” Mr. Suzman said in an interview.

In a larger sense, the planned changes at the Gates Foundation reflect the tensions within philanthropy as a whole — between the wishes of the wealthy, powerful donors who provide the millions and even billions of dollars and the nonprofits using those funds to feed, shelter and treat those in need.

“The problems with the governance predated the separation and divorce just as those problems are an issue with all family foundations,” said Rob Reich, co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford.

Two former senior Gates Foundation officials called for an expanded board in an article a few weeks after the divorce announcement, including “a chair who is not the foundation’s C.E.O., founder, or a founder’s family member.”

“Given that founders receive a substantial tax benefit for their donations, the assets the board oversees should be regarded as belonging to the public, with the board being held accountable to a fiduciary standard of care,” wrote Alex Friedman, the former chief financial officer, and Julie Sunderland, the former director of the foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund.

The Gates Foundation is trying to fight Covid-19, eradicate polio and reshape the struggle for gender equality, even as its two co-chairs extricate themselves from a 27-year marriage. The foundation has more than 1,700 employees and makes grants in countries around the world. Since 2000, the foundation has made grants totaling more than $55 billion, much of it from Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates, but tens of billions also came from their close friend Mr. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.

Mr. Buffett’s announcement last month that he was stepping down as the third trustee of the foundation made clear that the divorce had set significant changes in motion. Mr. Suzman promised at the time that governance changes would be announced this month, with many observers anticipating that a new slate of independent trustees would be revealed.

Details on what that might look like remained few on Wednesday, with neither names of candidates for the board of trustees nor even the ultimate number of new trustees released. Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates will approve changes to the foundation’s governance structures by the end of the year and the new trustees will be announced in January 2022, according to the statement.

At the center of the impending changes stands Mr. Suzman, a 14-year veteran of the Gates Foundation who was named chief executive just as the spread of Covid-19 in the United States was becoming apparent. Born in South Africa, the Harvard and Oxford-educated Mr. Suzman served as a correspondent for the Financial Times in London, South Africa and Washington before going to work at the United Nations. He joined the foundation in 2007 to work on global development policy before claiming the top post last year.

Mr. Suzman said in an interview that he had only heard that Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates would be divorcing roughly 24 hours before the news was publicly announced. He said that they started talking about possible governance changes “almost right away” after that. He said that he is in regular contact with them both. “I’m having three-way conversations with them. We’re having regular three-way email exchanges and other discussions,” Mr. Suzman said.

He noted that the hands-on leadership of Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates means the changes will take some time to enact.

“The degree and depth of engagement of our co-chairs and trustees goes significantly beyond what a traditional board does and how it does it,” he said in the interview. “So we’ll need some time to think through how we balance that with the people we bring on board.”

Mr. Suzman will work with Connie Collingsworth, the foundation’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer, to handle the process. The final decisions on both the new trustees and the changes to the foundation’s governance documents will be made by Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates. It is a reminder that, at least for now, power remains concentrated in the former couple.

Gates Foundation Reveals Plan in Case Co-Chairs Can’t Work Together

The Wall Street Journal 07 July, 2021 - 03:15pm

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Wednesday that it would add trustees and that its controlling philanthropists will add an additional $15 billion to the foundation’s $49.9 billion endowment, their largest single contribution since 2000. The money will be used to fund grants across the foundation’s work on issues including infectious diseases, gender equality and U.S. education, Mark Suzman, the foundation’s chief executive officer, said in an interview.

Under a private agreement that is part of their planned divorce, Ms. French Gates would resign as co-chair and trustee if after two years either of the co-chairs decides they can no longer work together to lead the foundation, Mr. Suzman said. Should that happen, he said, Ms. French Gates would receive funds from Mr. Gates separate from the foundation’s endowment for her own philanthropic work.

Ms. French Gates has discussed for at least several weeks the possibility of leaving the foundation if joint leadership with Mr. Gates isn’t tenable, people familiar with the matter said. She has been spending more time on work through her firm Pivotal Ventures while maintaining her work at the foundation, the people said.

The foundation disclosed the arrangement because it is relevant to additional trustees that the organization plans to bring on, Mr. Suzman said in the interview. He said it doesn’t signal Ms. French Gates’s impending departure. “Bill and Melinda have both individually and together assured me of their firm intent to keep working together as long-term co-chairs of the foundation,” he said.

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Haitian president assassinated, Taliban advances through Afghanistan, Ever Given ship sets sail

Yahoo Finance 07 July, 2021 - 03:15pm

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Foundation says Bill Gates can force Melinda French Gates to resign in two years | TheHill

The Hill 07 July, 2021 - 03:15pm

“[I]f after two years either one of them decides that they cannot continue to work together, Melinda will resign as co-chair and trustee,” Suzman said.

Suzman also said that Gates and French Gates decided to expand the number of trustees that oversee the foundation’s work. The foundation plans to announce the new trustees in January 2022.

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Melinda Gates May Resign As Co-Chair After Two Years: Gates Foundation

NDTV 07 July, 2021 - 03:15pm

Melinda Gates and Bill Gates in May filed for divorce after 27 years of marriage.

The Gates Foundation said Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates, in the midst of a high-profile divorce, will continue to work as co-chairs for a two-year trial period and after that time if the arrangement unravels, she would step down.

The contingency plan for one of the world's largest philanthropic foundations was announced by Chief Executive Officer Mark Suzman, a move that would ensure a successful transition for the foundation that has spent over $50 billion in the past two decades toward combating poverty and disease.

If Melinda resigns after two years, she would receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work, which would be completely separate from the foundation's endowment, the foundation said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Bill will then assume the full stewardship of the foundation, which the couple had often referred to as their "fourth child".

Melinda and Bill in May filed for divorce after 27 years of marriage, but pledged to continue their philanthropic work together.

The foundation said the controlling billionaire benefactors, Bill and Melinda, will contribute $15 billion, their single largest contribution since 2000, bringing the total endowment to about $65 billion.

It also said it will expand the number of trustees to oversee the work and intends to finalize decisions by the end of the year and announce the new trustees in January 2022.

Founded in 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health. The foundation last year committed some $1.75 billion to COVID-19 relief.

Wednesday's announcement also comes after billionaire investor Warren Buffett in June said he was resigning as a trustee of the foundation, and had donated half his wealth to philanthropy since pledging 15 years ago to give away his fortune from running Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Buffett did not explain why he was resigning, but noted that he had given up all directorships outside Berkshire, reducing his workload.

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation outlines leadership contingency plan amid divorce

Fox Business 07 July, 2021 - 12:08pm

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation outlined a new leadership contingency plan on Wednesday amid the couple's high-profile divorce announced earlier this year.

While Bill and Melinda previously said they would continue to work at the foundation together despite their separation, Melinda is now being given the option to resign from her position as co-chair and trustee if the pair is unable to continue to work together after two years, according to a news release.  

"In such a case, French Gates would receive personal resources from Gates for her philanthropic work," the organization noted. "These resources would be completely separate from the foundation’s endowment, which would not be affected."

In order to support the contingency plan, the foundation will add new trustees to its board, who will "bring new perspectives, help guide resource allocation and strategic direction, and ensure the stability and sustainability of the foundation." Bill, Melinda and Warren Buffett currently serve as the organization's three trustees, though Buffet is stepping away from his position.

The foundation's CEO Mark Suzman and chief operating officer and legal officer Connie Collingsworth will lead the executive leadership team as it works in consultation with both inside and outside experts as well as Bill and Melinda to develop recommendations for the number of new trustees and the selection process.

The new trustees are expected to be announced in January 2022, following approval of the foundation's governance changes by Bill and Melinda.

In addition, Bill and Melinda will dole out $15 billion toward new resources to help the foundation continue its work. Since 2000, the organization's endowment has contributed over $55 billion to the fight against poverty, disease and inequity in the U.S. and around the world.

The new donation marks Bill and Melinda's single largest contribution since 2000 – when they transferred $20 billion in Microsoft stock to the foundation – and brings the foundation's total endowment to approximately $65 billion.

"I'm grateful to the foundation's leadership team, employees and partners for their dedication to making the world healthier and more just," Gates tweeted following the announcement. 

Melinda said in a statement that she is "deeply proud of all that the foundation and its partners have accomplished over the past two decades to bring us closer to a world where everyone, everywhere has the chance to live a healthy and productive life." 

"Every success we’ve seen is a testament to our partners and a broad coalition of government leaders, global experts, community organizers, activists, advocates, health care workers, farmers, teachers, and researchers – all united in their efforts to promote a healthier, safer, more equal world. Their faith that progress is possible fuels mine," she continued. "These governance changes bring more diverse perspectives and experience to the foundation’s leadership. I believe deeply in the foundation’s mission and remain fully committed as co-chair to its work."

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