What’s going to happen to the Gates Foundation?

After announcing their divorce, Bill and Melinda Gates say they are committed to the $50B+ Gates Foundation. Some questions remain.


May 6, 2021

Earlier this week, the tech and business world was shaken by news that Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced.

Dollar Bill Gates is one of the world’s wealthiest people, with an estimated net worth of $134B+.

While the fate of that fortune certainly drives interest, a more pressing concern for many is the couple’s philanthropic venture: the Gates Foundation.

Tasked with directing $5B a year…

… the Gates Foundation employs 1.6k people and has given grants to 135 countries, per The New York Times.

During the pandemic, the foundation distributed $1.75B and has been instrumental in getting vaccines to poorer countries.

Since its founding in 2000, it has given away $53.8B. The size of the endowment is $50B and — as a charitable trust — it is “irrevocable,” which means it can’t be split up in a divorce settlement.

Even with the money safe…

… concerns remain, per the NYT:

  • Mandate: The direction of the foundation can be affected by differing views between Bill and Melinda (although they’ve issued statements saying they are both “committed to the organization”)
  • Trustees: Other than the Gateses, there is only 1 more trustee: 90-year-old Warren Buffett. There could now be an opportunity to add people with different viewpoints to the board.
  • Focus: Both of the Gateses have their own personal investing funds. Melinda’s Pivotal Ventures invests in economic empowerment for women while Bill runs Gates Ventures.

Based on their track record, the “word” is that the Gateses will “excel” in whatever “windows” of opportunity they pursue. (Sorry).

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