Melinda French Gates is no longer promising to give away the majority of her billions of dollars in wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wall Street Journal reported (paywall) on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Instead, the billionaire plans to spread her wealth more widely among charitable organisations – a plan she made official following her divorce from Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates, said the WSJ.
In 2010, French Gates and her now ex-husband vowed in a joint Giving Pledge letter to give away most of their fortune to the foundation that bears their names. The Giving Pledge was started that year by the now-divorced couple and billionaire Warren Buffet to encourage the wealthiest people in the world to give away more than half of their wealth to charitable causes or philanthropic organisations. Those who sign up for the Giving Pledge usually outline their giveaway plans in letters published online.
“I recognize the absurdity of so much wealth being concentrated in the hands of one person, and I believe the only responsible thing to do with a fortune this size is give it away — as thoughtfully and impactfully as possible,” French Gates wrote in a Giving Pledge letter published in November.
“The ultimate goal of any philanthropist should be to render the need for philanthropy obsolete,” she said, adding that “giving away money your family will never need is not an especially noble act.”
In her November letter, French Gates recommitted to giving away most of her wealth but did not say she would give it to the Gates Foundation.
The Gates Foundation is a philanthropic juggernaut, with an endowment north of $50bn. French Gates could still make donations to it alongside gifts to other charities, said the WSJ, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Bill and Melinda French Gates currently co-chair the Gates Foundation, but French Gates agreed to step down next year if the pair decide they can no longer work side by side.
In his latest Giving Pledge letter, Bill Gates reaffirmed his commitment to give away most of his wealth to the foundation that bears his name, writing: “The foundation is my top philanthropic priority, even as my giving in other areas has grown over the years.”