Gates Foundation Prepares For Founder's Divorce

Editorial Staff 8 July 2021

Gates Foundation Prepares For Founder's Divorce

In case the UHNW couple cannot work together at the foundation bearing their name post-divorce, arrangements have been put in place. The situation sheds light on an issue facing philanthropists and the governance problems arising upon divorce.

The Gates Foundation has outlined back-up plans in case its co-chairs cannot work together in the wake of their divorce, highlighting how marital breakdowns are an issue for managing philanthropy in the US and other jurisdictions. 

The deal gives Bill and Melinda Gates a two-year trial, after which Ms Gates could resign from the organization. Ms Gates would also receive "personal resources" from her ex-husband for her own charity work, reports said. 

There have been questions about the foundation’s future after the couple announced in May that they were divorcing. Their split is in the same bracket as that of Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott in terms of the huge financial sums involved. 

Ms Gates will remain as a trustee during the "trial period." The foundation will recruit new trustees to oversee its work.

The foundation said 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 (source: Wall Street Journal, July 7). The money will be used to fund grants across the foundation’s work on areas including infectious diseases, gender equality and US education, Mark Suzman, the foundation’s chief executive officer, said in an interview (source: WSJ).

That such an announcement was made highlights how philanthropic organizations, companies, trusts and other structures have to take account of marital issues in terms of governance.

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

This news service took part in a recent podcast, hosted by Strategic Philanthropy, about trends in philanthropy over the past two decades, as well as discussing what the future holds. 

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