Gates divorce forces $50 billion foundation to weigh changes

“As I told foundation employees last week, I’m actively discussing with Bill and Melinda steps they and Warren might take to strengthen the long-term sustainability and stability of the foundation,” Mark Suzman, the Gates Foundation’s chief executive officer, said in a statement Thursday, referring to billionaire Warren Buffett, the third member of the foundation’s board.

Suzman said no decisions have been made, but added that Bill and Melinda have “reaffirmed their commitment to the foundation and continue to work together on behalf of our mission.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that they are also considering bringing in outside directors, citing people they didn’t identify. There are currently just three trustees: Gates, French Gates and Buffett, who has added more than $27 billion of his own money to the foundation’s coffers over the past 15 years.

Three Members

The three-person board is unusually small for a foundation of its size. The Ford Foundation, which is roughly a fifth the size of the Gates Foundation, has 15 members on its board. The Rockefeller Foundation, at a 10th of the size, has no fewer than 12 at any time.

When the couple announced their split earlier this month, a foundation spokesperson said in a statement that “no changes to their roles or the organization are planned.”

In the weeks following the announcement, there have been several transfers of shares worth billions of dollars from Gates’s investment office, Cascade Investment, to French Gates.

Gates, 65, a Microsoft Corp. co-founder, is the fourth-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $144 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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