Bill and Melinda Gates split philanthropy plans after divorce

Mr Gates will focus on the foundation and his ex-wife will prioritise gender equality

Bill and Melinda French Gates filed for divorce on May 3, after 27 years of marriage. Photo: AP

Billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and his ex-wife Melinda French Gates have made public their separate plans to donate their wealth, almost seven months after announcing their divorce.

Mr Gates, 66, who is the fourth-wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $135 billion, behind Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bernard Arnault, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said he will continue to focus his philanthropy on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s work.

“The foundation is my top philanthropic priority, even as my giving in other areas has grown over the years – primarily in mitigation of climate change and tackling Alzheimer’s disease,” Mr Gates said in his updated Giving Pledge, which is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back.

The divorced couple initially wrote a letter in 2010 for the Giving Pledge. On Tuesday, the pledge’s website was updated to include their new separate letters.

“I’m proud of all we have achieved so far, from supporting the vaccination of more than 800 million children to helping schools keep more kids on the track to graduation,” the Microsoft co-founder wrote in his letter dated November 30.

“The foundation’s mission has grown over time, but it remains focused on expanding opportunity for the world’s poorest people and improving education in the United States,” he added.

Mr Gates and Ms French Gates founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. Since then, it has become one of the most influential non-profit organisations in the world that spends $5bn annually on fighting poverty, disease and inequality around the world.

The foundation says it has spent $54.8bn since its inception. Last year, the foundation pledged about $250 million to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic, with some of the funds channelled to the distribution of life-saving doses of Covid-19 vaccines to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

“When we first opened our doors back in 2000, it was built around the simple idea that all lives have equal value,” Mr Gates said in his updated letter.

The foundation was created to address deeply unfair inequities around the globe, he added.

In Ms Gates’s new Giving Pledge letter, she talks about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she helped found, but also her newer philanthropic arm Pivotal Ventures, which was created in 2015 to advance social progress in the US.

“As part of this pledge, I commit to doing more than writing cheques,” Ms Gates, 57, wrote. “I also commit my time, energy and efforts to the work of fighting poverty and advancing equality – for women and girls and other marginalised groups – in the United States and around the world. My giving will continue to focus on the people for whom the barriers to equality are highest.”

Ms Gates has a net worth of $11.7bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Quote
As part of this pledge, I commit to doing more than writing checks
Melinda French Gates, philanthropist

“While I’d always aspired to give back to my community, I never anticipated that I would be able to give away billions of dollars,” she added.

The Microsoft founder’s wife filed for divorce on May 3, after 27 years of marriage.

The Gates began dating in 1987 and wed on January 1, 1994, in Hawaii. The couple have three children.

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Updated: December 1st 2021, 8:46 AM