Warren Buffett is leaving the board of the Gates Foundation, casting further uncertainty over the world’s largest private philanthropy organisation after its co-chairs, Bill and Melinda Gates, announced they were divorcing.
Buffett, the legendary American investor and chair of Berkshire Hathaway, became a trustee of the foundation, alongside his friends the Gateses, after announcing in 2006 that he would donate the bulk of his fortune to charity.
“For years I have been a trustee — an inactive trustee at that — of only one recipient of my funds, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMG). I am now resigning from that post, just as I have done at all corporate boards other than Berkshire’s,” Buffett said in a statement Wednesday.
He also praised the foundation’s chief executive, Mark Suzman, as “outstanding” and said his goals remained “100 per cent in sync with those of the foundation”.
With a $50bn endowment, the Gates Foundation is not only the largest private philanthropy group, it is also regarded as the most influential. It has channelled the vast wealth Bill Gates amassed as co-founder of Microsoft into campaigns to eradicate diseases such as polio and reduce childhood mortality. Its long-term work on vaccines has made it a key player in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
But its future has suddenly come into question after the Gateses announced in early May that they would be ending their 27-year marriage. In a statement issued at the time, they insisted they remained committed to the foundation’s mission and would “continue our work together at the foundation”.
Others have questioned whether the foundation can continue in its current state in light of their split. Suzman confirmed earlier this month that the Gateses were considering the possibility of adding outside directors to the board as part of “prudent planning for the future”.
In addition to the Gates Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates each pursue their own separate philanthropic activities. In 2015, for example, Melinda launched an investment vehicle, Pivotal Ventures, which aims to support gender equality.