Melinda French Gates Resigning from Gates Foundation: 'This Is Not a Decision I Came to Lightly'

In a statement, ex-husband Bill Gates said, "I am sorry to see her leave, but I am sure she will have a huge impact in her future philanthropic work"

<p>Brian Ach/Getty</p> Melinda Gates and Bill Gates in 2013

Brian Ach/Getty

Melinda Gates and Bill Gates in 2013

Melinda French Gates has announced that she will be stepping down from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"After careful thought and reflection, I have decided to resign from my role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation," French Gates, 59, said in her statement on Monday, May 13.

Her last day will be June 7, according to her statement.

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

Related: Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates Celebrate Daughter Jennifer’s Medical School Graduation

French Gates went on to say that she will now pursue her own philanthropic efforts with a $12.5 billion grant.

"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," added the 59-year-old philanthropist, who is also the founder of Pivotal Ventures, a company that works on projects to empower women.

"Under the terms of my agreement with Bill, in leaving the foundation, I will have an additional $12.5 billion to commit to my work on behalf of women and families. I'll be sharing more about what that will look like in the near future," her statement read.

Related: Melinda French Gates Hopes Book Imprint Will 'Open People's Eyes' on Gender Equity: 'It's Within Our Reach'

French Gates, who was married to the Microsoft co-founder for nearly 30 years and co-founded their namesake foundation in 2000, noted that she is stepping down "with full confidence that the foundation is in strong shape, with its extremely capable CEO Mark Suzman, the Executive Leadership Team, and an experienced board of trustees in place to ensure all its important work continues."

"The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy," added French Gates.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories

In a statement posted to LinkedIn, Gates thanked French Gates for her "critical contributions" to the foundation.

"As a co-founder and co-chair Melinda has been instrumental in shaping our strategies and initiatives, significantly impacting global health and gender equality," he said. "I am sorry to see her leave, but I am sure she will have a huge impact in her future philanthropic work."

Related: Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates Celebrate Daughter Jennifer’s 28th Birthday

"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," his statement continued. "

He concluded, "Our foundation team is incredibly strong and deeply passionate about our work, and under the leadership of Mark Suzman, and a committed board of trustees, I am confident we will keep making substantial progress on our mission to create a world where every person can live a healthy, productive life."

In a separate statement, CEO Mark Suzman added that "the foundation is as strong as it has ever been thanks to the expertise, passion and integrity of our employees and partners.”

<p>Christian Liewig/Corbis/Getty</p> Melinda French Gates

Christian Liewig/Corbis/Getty

Melinda French Gates

Opening up about their working relationship post-divorce during an interview with CBS Mornings' Gayle King in 2022, French Gates said that while it hadn’t always been easy, they both remained committed to the foundation.

"I think the thing that people don't realize is that even during the difficult times, the last 18 months, while we were going through this process behind the scenes we were able to show up and work effectively together. I'm not saying it was easy, but we did," she said. "I know for me, I had days where I would be in tears the hour before an online meeting or I would be angry, but I still rose to my higher self. I think we can continue to do that."

Foundation CEO Mark Suzman publicly shared in 2021 that an agreement had been reached that would allow French Gates to step down if either she or her ex-husband decided they can no longer work together.

"They have repeatedly made clear their joint commitment and expectation to remain long-term partners and co-chairs," Suzman wrote at the time. "However, as an additional step, they have agreed that if after two years either one of them decides that they cannot continue to work together, Melinda will resign as co-chair and trustee. In such a case, Melinda would receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work. These resources would be completely separate from the foundation's endowment, which would not be affected."

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.