Melinda French Gates to Resign From Gates Foundation

Ms. French Gates’s departure is the latest step in the evolution of the Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private foundation. From public health and development to agriculture and education, the foundation is a highly influential player, giving away billions of dollars annually.

Its future direction was thrown into doubt momentarily when Mr. and Ms. French Gates announced their plans to divorce in May 2021, after 27 years of marriage. At the time, the foundation said that she would continue working with Mr. Gates as a co-chair, and that if either of them decided that they couldn’t work together, Ms. French Gates would step down in May 2023 or later.

Ms. French Gates considered her working relationship with her ex-husband to be challenging, according to a person with knowledge of her thinking. After her divorce, Ms. French Gates said publicly that she and Mr. Gates maintained a friendly relationship, but that they weren’t friends.

In “The Moment of Lift,” her first book, published in 2019, Ms. French Gates wrote about how difficult it was at times to stand out alongside her husband. “I’ve been trying to find my voice as I’ve been speaking next to Bill,” she wrote, “and that can make it hard to be heard.”

After the couple’s 2021 divorce, the foundation introduced several changes as it sought to introduce stronger corporate governance mechanisms and professionalize its operations. Despite the foundation’s size — an endowment of $75 billion as of 2023, around 2,000 employees and roughly a dozen offices around the globe — it had long remained a tightly controlled entity where Ms. French Gates and Mr. Gates, the two co-chairs and co-trustees, oversaw much of the decision making, according to former employees and those who have worked with the foundation.

In 2021, soon after the divorce, Warren E. Buffett, who had joined the foundation as its third trustee after announcing in 2006 that he would give to it a majority of his fortune, stepped down from his role, saying that his participation was not needed, but that he would continue to make contributions. The next year, the foundation added six trustees to its board.

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