Who Gets the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the Divorce?

Photo: 2015 Getty Images

The conscious uncoupling for one of the world’s richest couples has not been a clean and friendly split so far. Since Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates announced earlier this month that they could “no longer grow together” and were getting a divorce, a dump of leaked information has painted the Microsoft co-founder in a new, creepier light — including claims that Bill sought out affairs with women he employed and that he and Jeffrey Epstein hung out way too much after the financier got out of prison for procuring a child for prostitution.

But even if the bad press is spewing very clearly in one direction, the pair wants everything to be squeaky clean with their philanthropic baby: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the couple and their lawyer squadrons are restructuring the charity to ensure “the long-term sustainability and stability of the foundation given the co-chairs’ divorce,” as the organization’s CEO Mark Suzman put it. That could entail adding a board and bringing in outside directors to the foundation that has been previously been run by a core group, including the couple on the outs.

As co-chairs and trustees of the Gates Foundation, Bill and Melinda will continue to guide the direction of the charity, which had an endowment of $49.9 billion in 2020, coming largely from donations from the family since the charity’s founding as the William H. Gates Foundation in 1994. (Though the pair were married that year, the name of the institution working to eradicate polio and fight other infectious diseases was not changed until 2000.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, the campaign to correct Bill Gates’s image in the public eye has not come without collateral damage to the foundation: “There have been recent calls from some Gates Foundation grant recipients asking questions about Mr. Gates’s ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.”

It’s unclear when this bad press will end. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported on Bill Gates’s money manager Michael Larson, who frequently made bigoted comments at work: “He openly judged female employees on their attractiveness, showed colleagues nude photos of women on the internet and on several occasions made sexually inappropriate comments.” Though Melinda French Gates reportedly wanted an independent firm to conduct an investigation of Larson’s behavior following a sexual harassment claim, her husband reportedly ignored her request.

Who Gets the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the Divorce?