Warren Buffett resigns from Gates Foundation in latest development following Gates divorce

Bill and Melinda Gates with Warren Buffett, left, in New York in 2006. (Gates Foundation Photo)

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett said he will resign as a trustee at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“For years I have been a trustee — an inactive trustee at that — of only one recipient of my funds, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” Buffett said in a statement that detailed his annual charitable giving, which totaled $4.1 billion this year. “I am now resigning from that post, just as I have done at all corporate boards other than Berkshire’s.”

He added: “The CEO of [the foundation] is Mark Suzman, an outstanding recent selection who has my full support. My goals are 100% in sync with those of the foundation, and my physical participation is in no way needed to achieve these goals.”

The foundation posted an email from Suzman that was shared with employees of the organization in which Suzman said, “The impact of [Buffet’s] prodigious generosity is hard to quantify. Even harder to quantify is how his values have permeated the foundation’s culture.”

Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates also provided statements about their friend and co-chair.

Melinda French Gates:

What made Warren’s extraordinary investment in the foundation so meaningful was not only its amount but what it represented: an unwavering belief that everyone deserves to live a healthy, fulfilling life and an optimism that a world like that is possible. I am grateful for Warren’s generosity, his leadership, and his friendship. His wisdom has been a guiding light through our foundation’s second decade, and the things we’ve learned from him will continue to help us chart a way forward.

Bill Gates:

More than ten years ago, when we first got word of Warren’s gift to our foundation, we were speechless. It was the biggest single gift anyone had ever given anybody for anything. We were humbled by the trust he placed in us, and determined to work every day to ensure his resources helped improve life for as many people as possible. We will always have a deep sense of accountability to Warren, paying close attention to the data to track our progress and identify areas where we can do better. But the value of Warren’s gift goes beyond anything that can be measured. I am truly grateful for his wisdom and leadership, and most of all for his enduring friendship. Warren will continue to inspire our foundation as we work to fight poverty and help millions of people live healthier lives.

It’s the latest development following the Gates’ divorce announcement in early May, 27 years after they married. Buffett’s statement did not mention the divorce.

Questions have been swirling about the future of the Seattle-based Gates Foundation, which has an endowment worth nearly $50 billion and has issued close to $55 billion in grants since launching more than 20 years ago.

“Bill and Melinda will remain co-chairs and trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” the foundation said in May. “No changes to their roles or the organization are planned. They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction.”

Suzman touched on the subject again in his email.

“I know Warren’s departure raises questions about the foundation’s governance,” he wrote. “As I have mentioned previously, I have been actively discussing with him, Bill, and Melinda approaches to strengthen our governance to provide long-term stability and sustainability for the foundation’s governance and decision-making in light of the recent announcement of Bill and Melinda’s divorce. I plan to share additional information in July.”

Buffett, 90, was the only other trustee at the foundation. He has donated nearly $30 billion to the organization, according to Bloomberg.

Buffett has been one of Bill Gates’ closest friends. He joined the former couple in 2010 to create the Giving Pledge, an effort that asks billionaires to vow to give away the majority of their wealth while alive or in their will — instead of bestowing their estates to descendants.

Gates joined the Berkshire board in 2004 but resigned in 2020 after saying he wanted to devote more time to his work through the foundation.

Following the divorce announcement, Gates has been in the news in recent months, including reports of his behavior toward female employees and an investigation into his “inappropriate” prior romantic relationship with a female Microsoft employee.

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