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Melinda French Gates is resigning from the Gates Foundation—and taking $12.5 billion to give away herself

Melinda French Gates has been cochair of the Gates Foundation since it launched in 2000.

Melinda French Gates is resigning from the Gates Foundation—and taking $12.5 billion to give away herself
[Source photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images]

Melinda French Gates is resigning from her role as cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the nonprofit she launched with her then-husband Bill Gates in 2000. Her last day with the foundation will be June 7. The nonprofit said that it will now change its name to the “Gates Foundation.”

“This is not a decision I came to lightly,” French Gates wrote in a statement posted to her social media accounts. “The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy.”

Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates divorced in 2021 after 27 years of marriage. In leaving the foundation, French Gates will get an additional $12.5 billion for her philanthropy work, “under the terms of” her agreement with Bill Gates. Post divorce, French Gates has a net worth of around $10 billion; Bill Gates’s net worth is around $130 billion.

Going forward, French Gates plans to focus on giving to causes that help women and families. “This is a critical moment for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world—and those fighting to protect and advance equality are in urgent need of support,” she wrote.

In a statement shared on his social media accounts, Bill Gates thanked French Gates for her contributions to the foundation. “Looking ahead, I remain fully committed to the Foundation’s work across all our strategies, and to realizing the opportunities we have to continue improving the lives of millions around the world,” he added. “I am sorry to see Melinda leave, but I am sure she will have a huge impact in her future philanthropic work.”

The Gates Foundation has focused on addressing poverty, global health, and inequality. At the beginning of 2024, the foundation had an endowment of $67 billion, making it one of the wealthiest charitable foundations in the world. The foundation’s CEO Mark Suzman told Fortune in January that the nonprofit intended to spend that entire endowment within 20 years of Bill and Melinda’s deaths.

The foundation has already given away tens of billions of dollars since its launch in 2000. Some of its work has been massively successful; the foundation has supported efforts to get vaccines to children in low-income countries, a program that by 2019 had vaccinated more than three-quarters of a billion children. It also played a significant role in addressing COVID-19.

Other work hasn’t yielded such strong results. The nonprofit spent hundreds of millions to improve high school graduation rates in U.S. states by focusing on assessing teachers. That effort didn’t noticeably improve test scores or affect dropout rates, studies found.

The Gates Foundation’s large endowment and expansive reach have led some to question if the nonprofit has too much power and influence. The foundation has also drawn criticism for some of its suggested solutions, like focusing on technological breakthroughs in farming that take years to implement, and that won’t immediately deliver relief to countries in need.

Suzman noted French Gates’s influence and legacy with the Gates Foundation in a video message, but added that the foundation is “as strong as it has ever been,” and that he is “more committed than ever” to leading the foundation with Bill Gates as its chair.

French Gates has not yet shared details on the philanthropic work she hopes to support going forward but said she planned to do so “in the near future.” She has long focused on issues that impact women, including efforts to protect girls from child marriage, getting more women in public office, and supporting female entrepreneurs in the Global South.

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