Why philanthropies could flourish following Bezos, Gates divorces

New York (CNN Business)The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation named four new members to its board of trustees on Wednesday, marking the first outsiders added to the charity’s board in its two-decade history.

The new additions, which include a billionaire, a baroness and the CEO of the Gates Foundation, are being brought on in part to help bolster the foundation’s governance in the wake of Bill and Melinda French Gates’ divorce last year.
Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, wrote in a letter that the new appointments will “provide additional input, strategic guidance, and fiduciary oversight to the foundation,” and that the decision “represents an explicit recognition by Bill and Melinda, especially 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.”

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    In addition to Suzman, the new board members include Strive Masiyiwa, the billionaire founder of technology company Econet Group; Baroness Nemat (Minouche) Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science; Thomas Tierney, the co-founder of philanthropic consulting firm Bridgespan Group and former chief executive of Bain & Co.

      The charity has had no trustees beside Bill and Melinda French Gates since Bill Gates Sr.’s death in 2020 and Warren Buffett’s resignation in June 2021 after 15 years on the board. Buffett did not specify his reasons for leaving the foundation, but noted at the time that he had resigned from all corporate boards other than Berkshire Hathaway’s.

      The organization is one of the world’s largest charitable foundations, funded by the former couple’s personal wealth, several other family foundations and by Buffett’s pledged gift. It has contributed more than $55 billion over the last two decades to initiatives including gender equality, global health, poverty alleviation and the global rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

        The charity faced some scrutiny after news of the divorce and misconduct allegations against Bill Gates relating to his time at Microsoft in the 2000s. Gates and French Gates previously announced a two-year trial period during which they would co-manage their foundation. Suzman said this contingency plan was in place “to ensure the continuity of the foundation’s work.”
        “If after two years either decides they cannot continue to work together as co-chairs, French Gates will resign her position as co-chair and trustee,” Suzman said at the time. In that situation, Bill Gates would remain head and essentially buy French Gates out of the foundation.
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