Melinda French Gates leaving Gates Foundation after more than 20 years


Melinda French Gates announced Monday she is leaving the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation next month after more than two decades serving as co-chair, three years after divorcing co-founder Bill Gates following reports of his infidelity and meetings with Jeffrey Epstein.
US businesswoman and philanthropist Melinda French Gates announced Monday she will be leaving the Gates Foundation after serving as its co-chair for more than two decades. AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Key facts
  • French Gates said in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, that she didn’t come to this decision “lightly” and she is “immensely proud of the foundation (she and Bill) built together and of the extraordinary work it is doing to address inequities around the world.”
  • French Gates said that, under the terms of her agreement with her ex-husband to leave the foundation, she will have “an additional $12.5 billion” to use in her “work on behalf of women and families,” possible through her organisation Pivotal Ventures, which she founded to advance social progress for women and families.
  • A Gates Foundation spokesperson told Forbes the $12.5 billion will not come out of the foundation trust, but is “the subject of a personal agreement Bill and Melinda made” and will come from Bill’s personal account.
  • The couple announced they were getting a divorce in 2021, but said at the time Melinda French Gates, one of the most powerful women in philanthropy, would stay on as co-chair.
  • Her last day at the foundation will be June 7.
Crucial quote

In a separate statement posted to X, Bill Gates thanked Melinda French Gates for her work with the foundation, saying: “Melinda has been instrumental in shaping our strategies and initiatives, significantly impacting global health and gender equality.”

He also reiterated he is still “fully committed to the Foundation’s work across all our strategies.”

Surprising fact

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will change its name to the Gates Foundation after French Gates’ departure as a way to “honor Bill Sr.’s legacy and Melinda’s contributions,” CEO Mark Suzman said in a notice to employees shared with Forbes.

Moving forward, Bill Gates will be the sole chair.

Forbes valuation

We estimate French Gates to have a net worth of about $11.3 billion as of Monday afternoon, making her the 182nd wealthiest person in the world.

Key background

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was started by the couple in 2000 on the belief “that every life has equal value.”

Over the past two decades, the foundation has given grants for work in gender equality, global health and global policy, and French Gates has focused on “family planning, maternal and child health,” according to her LinkedIn.

At the end of 2022—which is the most recent financial information available—the foundation had about $68 billion in assets with another $68 billion in the Gates Foundation Trust.

In 2021, the couple divorced after 27 years amid rumours of Bill Gates’ promiscuity and relationship with Epstein, who Gates had known since 2011 and continued to spend time with despite French Gates expressing displeasure, The New York Times reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported French Gates had been considering divorce as early as 2019 after she found out about Gates’ continued meetings with Epstein.

Following the divorce, the couple said they would allow themselves a two-year trial period to determine whether they could continue leading the foundation together and, if they couldn’t, French Gates would step down.

This article was first published on and all figures are in USD.

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