The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — the second-largest philanthropy in the world — is now governed by just two trustees, after Warren Buffett announced on Wednesday that he had resigned his position there.
Why it matters: The two remaining trustees, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, are going through a divorce.
Where it stands: In his announcement, Buffett said that “my goals are 100% in sync with those of the foundation,” and that the foundation’s new CEO, Mark Suzman, was “an outstanding recent selection who has my full support.” He gave no indication that his schedule of large annual donations to the Foundation would change in any way.
- Buffett said he’s 50% towards his goal of giving away all of his Berkshire Hathaway shares to charity, following his latest $4.1 billion distribution. Under the terms of his pledge, five sixths of those shares are given in annual installments to the Gates Foundation, which then has one year to sell the shares and spend all of the proceeds.
- After the Gateses announced their divorce, the Wall Street Journal reported that they were considering bringing more accountability and transparency to the foundation by expanding the board and appointing outside directors.
The bottom line: The future of the Gates Foundation has been unclear since the principals’ divorce was announced. Today’s announcement from Buffett — who admits that his trusteeship has been “inactive” — does nothing to clear up the uncertainty, but is consistent with a plan to keep the foundation largely intact while beefing up its governance.
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