Co-chairs of the Gates Foundation add $15bn to endowment and plan governance overhaul 

12 Jul 2021 News

Bill Gates

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates have added $15bn, approximately £10bn, to the endowment of the charity they co-chair and say they also plan to recruit new trustees. 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the additional funds and governance changes last week, two months after Gates and French Gates said they were getting a divorce. 

Last month Warren Buffett, the third trustee of the foundation, resigned, giving his full backing to the foundation’s chief executive, Mark Suzman. 

Suzman and Connie Collingsworth, the foundation’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer, will oversee the process of recruiting new trustees who will “bring new perspectives, help guide resource allocation and strategic direction, and ensure the stability and sustainability of the foundation”, the announcement says. 

Suzman said: “From the foundation’s earliest days, we’ve sought to include a diversity of voices into our programmes, strategies, and decision-making. By appointing additional trustees, we’re elevating that approach to the highest levels of the foundation.” 

The announcement does not specify how many additional trustees will be appointed, but says they will be in post by January 2022. 

Implications of the divorce 

When Gates and French Gates announced their divorce, they said they were both committed to the foundation’s work and would continue to be involved. 

However, they have now set out what will if they cannot continue to work together.  

If after two years either individual feels they cannot work together, French Gates will “receive personal resources from Gates for her philanthropic work”, which would be “completely separate from the foundation’s endowment”, the statement says. 

Gates said: “Our vision for the foundation has grown over time, but it has always been focused on addressing inequity and expanding opportunity for the world’s poorest people. These new resources and the evolution of the foundation’s governance will sustain this ambitious mission and vital work for years to come.” 

French Gates added: “I am 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 organisers, activists, advocates, healthcare 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. 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.”

In the UK, when Sir Christopher Hohn and Jamie Cooper divorced it led to a protracted legal case over whether the charity they founded together, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, was able to transfer funds to a new charity created by Cooper. 

Eventually the courts agreed that the grant could go ahead, but not before it had cost the charity millions of pounds in legal fees. 

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