Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates recently announced their divorce plans but largely left the question of how the co-chairs would continue to work together at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation unanswered. Now, a new statement from the foundation has offered some clarity: they might not (via The New York Times). The foundation says Melinda French Gates will resign from her position as co-chair and trustee if either she or Bill Gates decides they are unable to work together after two years. It’s not clear how the organization settled on that timeframe.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman announced the two-year post-divorce trial period along with the commitment of an additional $15 billion from Melinda and Bill toward the foundation’s efforts to fight poverty, disease, and inequity. Suzman also writes that the co-chairs have decided to expand the charitable foundation’s number of trustees:
The additional trustees will bring new perspectives, help guide resource allocation and strategic direction, and ensure the stability and sustainability of the foundation.
Per the statement, Melinda and Bill are “are fully committed to continuing to work constructively together at the foundation,” but if Melinda does resign after two years, Suzman suggests she’ll keep giving under her own brand:
Melinda would receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work. These resources would be completely separate from the foundation’s endowment, which would not be affected.
The amount of those resources are unknown, but given Melinda’s reportedly significant personal wealth, her philanthropic work might not be hindered much either way.
Melinda and Bill long ago resigned from their positions at Microsoft but have continued to have an outsized impact on the world through the work of their foundation (being billionaires helps, too). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recently focused its efforts on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, donating $250 million toward the development of vaccines and other treatments in 2020. Last month, the foundation committed $2.1 billion over the next five years toward women’s economic empowerment, health, and leadership.