Melinda Gates, the wife of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, will resign from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s leadership after two years if she or Bill Gates can’t work together, the foundation said Wednesday.
The announcement comes two months after the couple simultaneously announced they would be getting a divorce after 27 years of marriage. And the statement from the Gates Foundation, one of the largest in the world, is the first time it touched on how it would operate following the high-profile couple’s eventual split.
“As noted in their divorce announcement in May and demonstrated in their public and private engagements since then,” the foundation said, “Gates and [Melinda] French Gates are fully committed to continuing to work constructively together at the foundation to advance its program and policy objectives.”
But the statement noted that the two “also agreed to an additional step to ensure the continuity of the foundation’s work: if after two years either decides they cannot continue to work together as co-chairs, French Gates will resign her position as co-chair and trustee.” The Gates Foundation didn’t say whether a similar rule would apply to Bill Gates, a multi-billionaire who is one of the wealthiest people in the world.
The Gates Foundation also included a statement from Melinda Gates, who said she’s “proud” of the work they’ve done over the “past two decades.” Since it was launched in 2000, the organization has spent money on healthcare, education, and vaccines—and namely, COVID-19 vaccine development in recent months.
“These governance changes bring more diverse perspectives and experience to the foundation’s leadership,” she added. “I believe deeply in the foundation’s mission and remain fully committed as co-chair to its work.”
Mark Suzman, the foundation’s chief executive, told the Financial Times that the two wanted to be “transparent” about issues regarding their divorce.
“That is something that, certainly from my perspective, I do not expect to happen, and am not planning for,” he said. “Bill and Melinda, both individually and together, assured me of their firm intent to keep working together as co-chairs for the long term, and that is what we are planning around.”
Currently, Bill and Melinda Gates are the only two trustees on the board, coming after billionaire Warren Buffett resigned from his role in June. Suzman told other media outlets that he expects new trustees to be announced next year, although it’s not clear how many will be added.
In the same statement, the two also announced an additional $15 billion to the foundation’s endowment.