May 14, 2024 - Business

Melinda French Gates' $12.5 billion exit

Illustration of an exit sign made out of a hundred dollar bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

By leaving the Gates Foundation, Melinda French Gates has effectively managed to raise $12.5 billion for her philanthropy focused on women and girls.

Why it matters: The Gates Foundation, where French Gates made up 50% of the trustees as of June 2021, now boasts a solid eight-member board of trustees and a governance structure that makes her role much less crucial than it was three years ago.

Between the lines: Under the terms of her divorce agreement with Bill Gates, French Gates is entitled to "receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work," per a 2021 announcement.

  • We can now put a number on the size of those resources: $12.5 billion.

Of note: The cash going to French Gates is "completely separate from the foundation's endowment, which would not be affected," per the announcement.

  • In other words, the $12.5 billion is coming out of Bill Gates' personal wealth, not out of the Gates Foundation, whose work — much of which also centers on women and girls, thanks in very large part to French Gates' influence — is broadly unaffected.

The bottom line: Her work at the Gates Foundation is done, and it will continue to carry out her philanthropic agenda in her absence. Now she has $12.5 billion from her ex-husband to build a new force in philanthropy.

  • As one of the minuscule number of humans ever to found two multi-billion-dollar philanthropies, she has a quarter-century of experience to use in terms of knowing what — and what not — to do this time around.
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