Bill and Melinda Gates consider organizational changes to Foundation
Three weeks after Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates went public with their lengthy divorce proceedings that were underway since 2019, Mark Suzman, the CEO of Gates Foundation, has revealed to employees that he's in talks to strengthen "the long-term sustainability and stability of the foundation." Ironically, this comes after the couple had claimed that their split won't affect the $50 billion philanthropic foundation.
Not long after announcing their split, French Gates had made the shocking revelation that she had initiated the divorce process in 2019 while citing concerns with Gates's ties to deceased sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein. The change in the couple's dynamics also affects the fate of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, because the board consists of only three members, including billionaire investor Warren Buffet.
Leaving the reins of a $50 billion organization on a three-member board is a concern when two-thirds of it consists of a couple filing for divorce over irreconcilable differences. Suzman revealed that he was consulting with Buffet and both the Gateses in order to take steps to address this concern. Notably, Buffet has contributed $27 billion of his wealth to the foundation so far.
Although Suzman's statement hints at probable changes coming to the foundation's organizational structure, the CEO asserted that Bill and Melinda Gates have "reaffirmed their commitment to the foundation and continue to work together on behalf of our mission." Suzman also emphasized that "no decisions have been made" so far and that the current discussions represent their "prudent planning for the future."
While the philanthropic foundation will continue to piggyback on the current status quo in the short term, a Wall Street Journal report reveals that discussions are underway to add more governance and independence to the charity. Presently, the estranged couple handles the strategic aspects of the foundation's work, while Suzman oversees the daily operations. Buffet, also a trustee, is consulted on key decisions.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Maribel Morey, a historian of philanthropy, suggests adding more members to the board would "democratize the ultimate decision-making process." Morey cited The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations as examples whose boards are four times larger than the Gates Foundation despite being a fraction of its size. Morey also positioned this as a means to enhance the racial diversity of the all-white board.