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Updated May 13, 2024, 5:24pm EDT
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Melinda French Gates resigns from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Melinda Gates
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Image
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The News

Philanthropist Melinda French Gates said Monday she is resigning from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she founded with her former husband Bill Gates. She is stepping down on June 7 with a $12.5 billion agreement that she will use for future projects independent of the charity.

“This is not a decision I came to lightly,” she posted on X. “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.”

“The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of philanthropy,” she added, saying that the $12.5 billion will be committed to work “on behalf of women and families,” the details of which she will share later.

With an endowment of over $50 billion, the Gates Foundation is estimated to be among the biggest private charitable organizations in the world, and has played a critical role in expanding healthcare and education access across the developing world.

Gates’ departure was not entirely unexpected: Following their 2021 divorce, the former couple said that they had agreed that Melinda would step down as co-chair if after two years either one concluded they could not work together.

Bill had also agreed at the time to give Melinda “personal resources” for her to continue her philanthropic work, which the foundation said would be separate from its endowment.

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Melinda French Gates could shift donations to politics

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Sources:  
PUCK News, TIME

In her departure letter, French Gates warned that now is a “critical moment” for women and girls, and pledged to “protect and advance equality.” This suggests “she is about to channel more and more of her money into politics,” PUCK News’ Teddy Schleifer wrote. While with ex-husband Bill Gates, the couple avoided political causes and focused on humanitarian philanthropy. But their children are reportedly much more vocal about donating to Democratic candidates and causes, and Schleifer wrote, they may have pushed French Gates toward political causes. In a sign of her changing stance, in a 2023 article she argued Washington needs to eliminate barriers that prevent more women from entering public office and “keep our government from looking like the people it’s intended to serve.”

Gates Foundation was catering to separate interests before founders’ divorce

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Source:  
The New York Times

Bill and Melinda Gates were already spearheading separate projects based on their personal interests through their foundation before they announced their divorce. French Gates championed female empowerment, while Bill focused on clean energy initiatives. “Institutionally, the foundation had already absorbed the separation,” one philanthropy expert told The New York Times. The lack of coordination was stressful for at least a few employees of the couple’s separate venture funds, which dispersed foundation money. One former staff member said it felt like the Gates Foundation was “mired in the wonkery of development.”

Bill Gates’ shadow loomed large over foundation work

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Source:  
The Financial Times

Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates have never fully explained why they divorced, but beyond personal matters, some believe that French Gates may have felt overshadowed by her ex-husband and that she believed she could have more success running her own independent charity, the Financial Times reported. She hinted as much in her 2019 memoir: “I’ve been trying to find my voice as I’ve been speaking next to Bill — and that can make it hard to be heard,” she wrote.

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