Gates Foundation adds a baroness and a billionaire to its growing board

Bloomberg — Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates are redistributing control of their $50 billion foundation, one of the world’s most powerful philanthropic organizations, fulfilling a promise made after they announced their split last year.

The Gates Foundation is adding four new members to its board of directors: its executive director, Mark Suzman; Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa; Thomas Tierney, co-founder of the Bridgespan Group, one of the industry’s most powerful nonprofit consultants; Y Minouche Shafik, a former World Bank official who is now director of the London School of Economics (LSE).

“We are honored that these three deeply knowledgeable and respected individuals have agreed to join the foundation’s board,” Suzman, 53, said in a statement Wednesday. “They contribute an incredible track record of impacting global business, philanthropy and development”.

The Seattle-based foundation said there could be up to nine members in the future. The conversations areongoing on adding to initial list to improve representation across gender, geography, and experience”.

The new members join Gates and French Gates on the board, adding a measure of diversity to a group that was previously made up of a small circle of friends and family. This included Bill’s father, who died in 2020 and Warren Buffett, who has donated more than $30 billion to the organization charitable Shortly after the announcement of the divorce, the head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK / A) announced that he was leaving the foundation and emphasized that it was because he had an “inactive role”.

But nevertheless, the 91-year-old has long sought to avoid conflict and, by the time he left, the divorce was turning increasingly bitter. Unflattering reports emerged about Gates’ fidelity, ties to dead sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and claims that his money manager Michael Larson operated in a toxic work environment.

The foundation implemented measures to ensure it would continue to function, announcing that the former couple would add $15 billion to the endowment of US$50,000 million over the next few years and added a nuclear option: French Gates would resign after two years if the two couldn’t work together.

If he leaves, French Gates, 57, will receive money from Gates, 66, for his philanthropic work which is independent of the endowment of the foundation. Gates has already transferred billions of dollars in company shares to French Gates, who is building his own philanthropic investment firm, Pivotal Ventures.

With billions of dollars a year in grants, the foundation operates around the world with a focus on health, gender and education. The philanthropic world has been speculating whether a new board, the organization’s governing body, would change its approach to giving.

The initial announcement also raised expectations that it would lead to greater diversity, a problem in the world of philanthropy of large sums of money.

Edgar Villanueva, founder of the Decolonizing Wealth Project, said this is particularly important to the Gates Foundation because of its global influence.

“What they do in the world creates a lot of momentum for the industry, so all eyes are on them,” he said this month.

We are left alone He is the founder and CEO of Econet Global, a telecommunications company that operates in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Econet offers telephone, broadband and satellite services, and is also a major provider of mobile payments, a focus on the Gates Foundation’s work in Africa to expand financial services for the poor.

Masiyiwa said in the statement that has worked with the foundation for 20 years, “starting with efforts to improve agricultural production for more than 400 million smallholder farmers in Africa, to improve the livelihoods of the poorest people in Africa and the world.”

Shafik, the only other woman on the board besides French Gates, has worked for the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development and is a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.

Shafik, who was born in Egypt, was educated in the United States and was made a Baroness of the United Kingdom in 2020, she is currently Director of the LSE.

“I have spent my career working at some of the world’s leading academic and international institutions because, like Melinda and Bill, I realize that the most difficult problems facing humanity are not limited to a single country or sector, but are universal challenges that require reason, empathy and cooperation”, he said in the statement.

Tierney founded Bridgespan in 2000, when the Gates Foundation was formed, after running management consultancy Bain & Co. The Gates Foundation has worked with Bridgespan, which has become more prominent recently for his role in helping MacKenzie Scott dole out billions of dollars at a record pace.

Suzman, a former journalist and United Nations employee who grew up in apartheid South Africa, he joined the organization in 2007 and was promoted to the top job in February 2020. Suzman, who is white, said in a letter Wednesday that he has made diversifying the foundation’s staff and giving a goal. key code.

Diversity is also a priority when adding new members to the board.

“We are in active discussions about adding to our initial list to improve representation across gender, geography and experience,” Suzman wrote in her first annual letter to the foundation, a job typically done by Gates and French Gates.

Reacting to the new members on Wednesday, Villanueva said it is a step in the right direction., but it’s disappointing and doesn’t go far enough.

I would like to see an opportunity for people who are from the community, on the groundhe said, adding that as long as Gates and French Gates are in charge, there will be an imbalance of power. “Ultimately, it’s still a family foundation, his family’s money, he’s still sitting in the role of president.”

This is common when family foundations add board members, he said.

“It is highly unlikely that they will bring in someone who is a threat to the power structure.”

A “technocratic ethos” has long dominated the Gates Foundation, and the expanding board could “become an opportunity to incorporate more community-focused perspectives into its leadership”said Benjamin Soskis, senior research associate in the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute.

“No one expects an expanded board to completely alter the foundation’s thinking and priorities, but bringing more of the outside criticism of the Gates Foundation to the foundation itself would be a good thing,” said Soskis, whose work has been funded by the foundation in last.

You may be interested in:

Melinda French Gates cuts stake in CNR with US$467 million sale

Bill and Melinda French Gates separate philanthropic promises after divorce

Nubank founder signs Warren Buffett initiative to donate wealth

This article was translated by Miriam Salazar