Melinda French Gates to leave namesake foundation, launch new effort

Melinda French Gates announced Monday that she will leave her role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation next month, a major leadership change for one of the world’s largest charitable organizations.

French Gates, who divorced ex-husband and Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 2021, said she will put $12.5 billion into new philanthropic endeavors “on behalf of women and families,” but did not detail her plans.

“This is not a decision I came to lightly,” she wrote in a statement. “I am immensely proud of the foundation that Bill and I built together and of the extraordinary work it is doing to address inequalities around the world. I care deeply about the foundation team, our partners around the world, and everyone who is touched by its work.”

“The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy,” she added.

The foundation will continue under its current leadership team, with Bill Gates as chair.

The announcement comes after French Gates said last year that she will no longer give a majority of her multibillion-dollar fortune to the foundation with her husband.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested tens of billions of dollars since its founding in 2000, mostly focusing on social welfare and health initiatives globally. A majority of the foundation’s charitable spending has been to combat infectious disease, malaria and HIV and AIDS.

“This is a critical moment for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world,” French Gates said in her statement Monday, “and those fighting to protect and advance equality are in urgent need of support.”

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