Gates Foundation adds board members after billionaires divorce

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has named four new members to its board, adding foreigners to the board for the first time in the charity’s history following the divorce of co-founders Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates.

The changes are part of efforts to add more governance and independence to one of the world’s largest philanthropies, which has an endowment of more than $50 billion. Mr. Gates and Mrs. French Gates remained co-chairs after their marital separation, but the foundation had no other trustees after the death of Bill Gates Sr. in 2020 and Warren Buffett, another major donor, resigned in June 2021 .

The new board members are:

  • Strive Masiyiwa, founder of African technology company Econet Group, who worked with the foundation and is a director of Netflix Inc. and Unilever PLC;

  • Baroness Nemat “Minouche” Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and former official of the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund;
  • Thomas J. Tierney, co-founder of the philanthropic advisory firm Bridgespan Group, who served as an adviser to the Gates and former chief executive of Bain & Co.;

  • Mark Suzman, a Gates Foundation veteran who has served as the association’s CEO since 2020.

  • Mark Suzman, a Gates Foundation veteran who has served as the association’s CEO since 2020.

The new board members, who join this week, “will provide additional input, strategic direction and fiduciary oversight to the foundation,” Suzman wrote in his annual letter. “It also represents an explicit recognition by Bill and Melinda, particularly in the wake of their divorce, that the foundation will be well served by the addition of strong, independent voices to help shape our governance.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in May that the foundation was discussing governance changes following the divorce of two of the world’s richest people. In July, the foundation announced that it would add trustees. He also said that if after two years one of the co-chairs decided they could no longer work together to run the foundation, Ms French Gates would step down as co-chair and trustee, under the terms of a private agreement in their divorce. . If this happened, Mrs. French Gates would receive funds from Microsoft Corp.

co-founder that are separate from the foundation’s endowment for her own philanthropic work.

In a press release on Wednesday, French Gates said she was motivated to work with the new board members to promote a healthier, safer and more equal world. In the statement, Gates said the broad experience of the board members will help philanthropy meet the challenges.

The foundation said the board could have up to nine members in total, meaning it could add up to three more, and there are talks about adding people to represent gender, geography and expertise. Board members will serve three-year terms with a limit of two consecutive terms. They must also meet three times a year to approve the annual budget and four-year plan and guide the work of the foundation.

A Gates Foundation spokeswoman said board members will not be paid, but in consideration of their time and effort, they may recommend that the Gates Foundation make a philanthropic donation to a charitable organization. qualified charities up to $50,000 per year. The spokeswoman said board members may also receive reimbursement for travel and reasonable expenses incurred to attend meetings and perform other duties on behalf of the Gates Foundation.

The philanthropy said Mr. Suzman along with Gates Foundation leader Connie Collingsworth conducted a strategic review of governance best practices with outside experts at the request of the co-founders. Most large philanthropies have boards of about a dozen people who advise or help manage them.

In a September interview, Gates said the foundation would not have as large a board as other endowments, nor would a larger board change its focus. “It would be nice to have additional admins, but I don’t think in terms of what we’re actually doing you’ll see much change,” he said.

Bill Gates said a larger board would not change the direction of the foundation.


Photo:

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Since January 2020, the Gates Foundation has committed more than $2 billion to the global response to Covid-19, with a focus on marginalized communities, the philanthropy said. It invests money in more than two dozen different areas, including polio eradication, infectious diseases, gender equality, education in the United States, and agricultural development. Last year it paid out $6.7 billion, Mr. Suzman wrote in his letter.

The foundation, which has more than 1,700 employees worldwide, has provided more than $60 billion in grants since its inception 21 years ago. In July, Mr. Gates and Mrs. French Gates said they would commit an additional $15 billion to the foundation and, along with Mr. Buffett, pledged to donate much of their wealth to it. The foundation is required to spend its endowment after the death of its co-founders.

contributed to this article.

The Gates and philanthropy

Write to Emily Glazer at [email protected]

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