Melinda French Gates no longer pledges bulk of $11.4bn fortune to Gates Foundation

The former wife of Bill Gates plans to spread her wealth across a range of philanthropic projects

Melinda French Gates will focus on a range of philanthropies other than the $50 billion Gates Foundation. Reuters
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Melinda French Gates will increasingly give away her fortune through philanthropies other than the $50 billion Gates Foundation.

Ms French Gates, 57, intends to spread her wealth across philanthropic endeavours, rather than pledging to give the bulk of it to the Gates Foundation, Dow Jones reported.

She and Bill Gates, 66, described their individual plans for donating their fortunes in letters posted online in November, about seven months after announcing their divorce.

Ms French Gates has been building up her own philanthropic investment company, Pivotal Ventures, which was started in 2015 with a focus on coming up with “innovative solutions to problems affecting US women and families”.

Ms French Gates is worth $11.4bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Mr Gates has the world’s fourth-highest net worth, at $130bn.

A representative for the Gates Foundation declined to comment. Messages to a Pivotal Ventures representative were not immediately returned.

A press release last week announcing the addition of new board members to the Gates Foundation initially said that Mr Gates, Ms French Gates and Warren Buffett had pledged “to devote the bulk of their remaining resources to the foundation”.

It was later corrected, with that language removed and changed to “the expectation of future pledges”.

Mr Gates and Ms French Gates shook up control of their Seattle-based foundation to strengthen its governance after their divorce, adding four people to its board and saying that there could be as many as nine members in the future.

Talks are “continuing about adding to the initial slate to enhance representation across gender, geography and expertise”.

If the former couple cannot work together, Ms French Gates will step down from the foundation within two years, they agreed last year. If she departs, Ms French Gates will receive money from Mr Gates for her philanthropic work apart from the foundation’s endowment.

So far, though, the bulk of the former couple’s money is still going to the foundation. Since their split, they have jointly announced $2.1bn for gender equality, $900 million for nutrition and $150m to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

The pair initially wrote a letter as a couple in 2010 for the Giving Pledge, a promise to give away the majority of their money in their lifetime or their wills.

“As part of this pledge, I commit to doing more than writing cheques,” Ms French Gates wrote in her updated letter in November.

“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 French Gates, through Pivotal, has also worked with MacKenzie Scott, who has become one of the biggest philanthropists in history in a matter of months after her 2019 divorce from Jeff Bezos. Ms Scott is the world’s 26th-richest person with a $50.9bn fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

With their Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, Ms Scott and Ms French Gates, along with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, gave $40m in 2021 to support gender equality.

Updated: February 03, 2022, 6:08 AM
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