“They have agreed that if after two years either one of them decides that they cannot continue to work together, Melinda will resign as co-chair and trustee,” Mr. Suzman said in a message to foundation employees Wednesday. If that happens, he added, Ms. French Gates “would receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work” separate from the foundation’s endowment. The money at stake underscores the strange mix of public significance — in global health, poverty reduction and gender equality among other important areas — and private affairs that attends any move made by the first couple of philanthropy, even after the announcement of their split. The foundation plans to add additional trustees outside their close circle, a step toward better governance that philanthropy experts had urged for years.
When they announced their divorce in May, Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates noted the importance of the work done by the foundation they had built together and said they “continue to share a belief in that mission.” In the announcement Wednesday, each echoed those sentiments. “These new resources and the evolution of the foundation’s governance will sustain this ambitious mission and vital work for years to come,” Mr. Gates said in a statement. Ms. French Gates emphasized the importance of expanding the board. “These governance changes bring more diverse perspectives and experience to the foundation’s leadership,” Ms. French Gates said in a statement. “I believe deeply in the foundation’s mission and remain fully committed as co-chair to its work.” In the immediate aftermath of the divorce announcement, it was unclear how they would share control of the institution. Wednesday’s announcement indicated that if they cannot work out their differences, it is the Microsoft co-founder Mr. Gates who will maintain control, as he essentially buys his ex-wife out of the foundation. Mr. Suzman said he did not know how much she would get if it came to that. But any payout would likely be significant.
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