Melinda French Gates Sets Bill Gates Straight On Foundation Prediction

In September, Bill Gates had suggested the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would close in 25 years.

When Bill Gates was discussing the future of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the the 2022 Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit in New York City, he offered a thought about a goal he had for the foundation’s longevity. It was then that he said he expected it to be around for another quarter-century.

The foundation, which says it is committed to fighting the greatest inequities in the world, began operating in 2000 when the Microsoft  (MSFT) – Get Microsoft Corporation Report founder was the richest man in the world.

“The goal for the foundation is to run for another 25 years,” Gates said then in Forbes

Gates and his ex-wife continue to co-chair the foundation under a two-year trial period which began last year following their divorce.  If either decides they cannot continue to work together, French Gates will resign as co-chair and trustee. She will then receive personal resources from Bill Gates to further her philanthropic work, according to the foundation.

Bill Gates discussed what the foundation would be doing for that remaining period of time, particularly in light of the fact two months earlier he had donated an astonishing $20 billion to it. A key goal is to “try and bring infectious disease, or all of the diseases that make the world inequitable, to bring those largely to an end, either through eradication or getting them down to very low levels,” he explained.

It’s worth noting that in 25 years, he will be 91 years old and Melinda French Gates will be 83.

“That’s probably the period of time where Melinda and I will be around to help make sure it stays on track,” Gates said. “We think spending all the money in that timeframe makes sense. So we’ll be shifting money over more and more.”

Melinda French Gates Corrects the Record

Hold on! Attending Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit this week in California, French Gates had an opportunity to respond to those comments and to explain the plan as it is written in the foundation’s records, offering a different view.

“Just to be clear, the governance documents of the foundation, which I’m a cosignatory on as co-chair, say that it will last until 20 years after the death of the last of us,” she said. “So that is the current state and plan.”

In September, after Bill Gates’ comments in New York, a foundation spokesperson clarified that the assets “are to be distributed within 20 years of the death of Bill, Melinda or Warren,” Geekwire reported.

The latter refers to Berkshire Hathaway  (BRK.A) – Get Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Report Chairperson Warren Buffett, who has contributed $35.7 billion to the foundation. 

French Gates also had the opportunity to address what it’s been like to continue on with the pair’s namesake foundation after her 2021 divorce.

“My values are baked into that institution,” she said. “And so what I know is that I have to show up as my best self every single day.”

The Foundation’s Role In the World

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sees the public and private sectors, acting together or separately, as able to solve many problems for many people. But it sees the spaces where those sectors don’t meet the needs of people, and that’s where it tries to operate.

The foundation’s website offers an example.

“A generation ago, the market for vaccines worked well in wealthy countries – if you wanted to be immunized against a whole range of diseases, you could – but the system did not work for other parts of the world. Certain vaccines just weren’t available for most people. The private sector didn’t sell them in low-income countries because it wasn’t clear there would be buyers. Governments tried to step in, but they weren’t in a position to bring all the pieces – the funding, the partnerships, the logistics – together to make it work. Tragically, millions of children were dying of preventable diseases each year.”

The foundation believes this is the sort of problem that philanthropic efforts can help solve, and it sees this as a prime example of its role.

“It’s this,” the website says. “The number of children who die each year before their fifth birthday. It’s fallen by half since the year 2000. Millions more kids are surviving. That makes us optimistic.”

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