Since the divorce was announced, Melinda French Gates (Melinda French Gates) made her public appearance for the first time, and the leaders of her charity and investment company also accompanied her to the White House. She pressured Biden officials on two core issues she prioritized: paid family leave and childcare.
On the same day this month, Bill Gates appeared in a virtual speech given by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. Wearing his familiar sweater, collared shirt and glasses, the Microsoft co-founder gave a nearly 11-minute speech on the impact of climate change on the world’s food supply.
These topics exposed the different interests of the former couple of billionaires behind one of the world’s largest charitable foundations. They broke up after announcing their marriage for 27 years in May, and now question the whereabouts of their huge wealth and the focus of their philanthropy. It also highlights the personal private investment sector that they have been quietly establishing over the past five years.
Both said that they will continue to participate in the $50 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and pledged to spend most of their wealth through donation pledges. But in the years before they broke up, every spouse sneaked into projects outside the scope of the foundation’s work, and this trend is expected to accelerate after the divorce.
“A couple are now two separate families,” said Elizabeth Dyer, associate professor of leadership for nonprofit organizations at Seattle University. She said that the couple’s philanthropy had a huge impact, and this impact may “through the current foundation, or it may continue in other ways.”
For the 56-year-old French Gates, the divorce may mean more resources will be concentrated on Pivotal Ventures, her 90-person incubation and investment company mainly focuses on gender equality. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, she has obtained more than $3 billion worth of stocks from Gates’ Cascade Investment, which is only a small part of their $145 billion wealth at the time of their divorce.
The 65-year-old Bill Gates (Bill Gates) focuses most of his work on Breakthrough Energy. The organization was established in 2015 and currently has about 100 employees. It specializes in various aspects of climate change. Hundreds of non-profit organizations and start-up companies provide funding.
A spokesperson for Breakthrough and Gates Ventures, the private office of Gates, declined to comment. A Pivotal spokesperson stated that French Gates “whether as the co-chair of the foundation or the founder of Pivotal Ventures, its commitment to enhancing women’s power and influence around the world remains unchanged.”
Both Breakthrough and Pivotal operate through limited liability companies, which means they can operate as for-profit entities. This is an increasingly popular form of donation, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chen and their Chen Zuckerberg initiative and Steve Jobs’ widow Lauren Powell Jobs And her Emerson collective used this form of donation.
A limited liability company does not always provide the same tax relief as a traditional foundation, but it has fewer rules. Money can be used for political lobbying or campaign donations, which are not tax-deductible. Moreover, unlike foundations, LLC’s activities, funds, and employees do not need to be disclosed in the public annual tax return.
Depending on who you are asking, they are either innovative tools in the world’s best philanthropist toolbox or they are a big step backwards in transparency.
Linsey McGoey, professor of sociology at the University of Essex, said: “They don’t face checks and balances like foundations.” Philanthropy.”
According to a spokesperson, Pivotal was launched in 2015 and has so far invested hundreds of millions of dollars in more than 150 organizations. It uses grants and venture capital to focus on empowering women, including getting more women to work in technology and being elected to public office, supporting women and girls of color, and advocating paid family leave.
This month, French Gates met with officials in Washington, including President Joe Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klein and domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, as well as directors of the Pivotal and Gates Foundation. According to a person familiar with the company who asked not to be named, on Pivotal’s side, they discussed paid leave and nursing issues related to Biden’s American family plan.
The source said that in April, Pivotal hired Washington-based lobbying firm Finsbury Glover Hering to focus on nursing and paid leave issues, indicating that it may be stepping up its efforts in Washington.
The White House is far from the basement of the Gates Foundation, and a managing director of Pivotal recalls working there many years ago. In the early 2010s, the foundation was carrying out projects related to women’s equality — such as funding initiatives that affect contraception and family planning — but French Gates hopes to accelerate their attention to gender equality as everything they do The core issue.
“Progress is steady, but it’s too slow for me,” French Gates wrote in her 2019 book “Moments of Ascension”. “People still talk about gender in the foundation quietly, sometimes in a low voice, and don’t want to come forward.”
In 2015, she founded Pivotal, an independent organization of about 10 people, a few of whom were selected from the Gates Foundation, including Haven Ley, a gender expert who joked that working in the basement, and Pivotal’s current post CEO John Sage.
Dell said that French Gates “really started to become a philanthropist and leader in the early 2010s, which is a gradual evolution for her.” “Pivotal represents her taking on a greater ownership and leadership role.”
Until recently, Pivotal’s goals became the focus. According to three people familiar with its early conditions, it has been talking about and studying what it might become in the first few years. As of December 2018, Pivotal’s website was nothing more than a landing page with “Melinda Gates’ Administrative Office” written on it, which contained links to French Gates’ social media pages. When her book was published in 2019, things started to get better.
Bill Gates is paying more and more attention to breakthroughs and climate change, which is the theme of his book “How to Avoid Climate Disasters” published this year. He stated in February that he had invested US$2 billion on climate and planned to invest another US$2 billion.
Gates said his interest in the field began in 2006 with a meeting with several climate scientists arranged by two former Microsoft employees. For the next 15 years, he steadily delved into this topic-starting companies, investment funds, scientific projects and lobbying activities aimed at tackling climate change.
In 2015, the same year that Gates of France founded Pivotal, Gates recruited some billionaire peers and invested some money in a new fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which will invest in Companies and technologies that reduce energy consumption. Greenhouse gas emissions have a longer-term concern than traditional venture capital companies. Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Richard Branson and Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, have all signed the fund’s first round of financing.
“What the breakthrough did was to bring in more capital, as well as loudspeakers and messengers that were not part of the conversation before,” said Alicia Seger, managing director of the Stanford University Steyr-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance .
Breakthrough’s venture capital arm completed another $1 billion round of financing in January this year, recruiting some new billionaire funders-including Fidelity Capital CEO Abigail Johnson and Walmart founder Sam Ward Walton’s grandson Ben Walton-the goal is to invest in up to 50 start-up companies. It also established a 100 million euro pilot fund in cooperation with the European Commission last year.
Gates has also always focused Breakthrough’s non-investment work on innovation, mainly funding its charity, policy, publicity, and research work. Its catalyst plan attempts to accelerate the deployment of clean technologies such as green hydrogen, and is launching a $1 billion plan with the European Commission. Breakthrough Energy Sciences does original research, such as the detailed model of the US Energy Network released this year.
Gates opened his private office Gates Ventures in 2008. The office focuses on his various interests, such as investing in technology and funding education and health projects—including an Alzheimer’s research program—that are outside the purview of the Gates Foundation.
Pivotal will become more active. In an op-ed in Time magazine in 2019, Gates of France stated that she would invest US$1 billion in empowering women in the next 10 years.
Since 2016, her company has invested more than $65 million in organizations such as the National Women and Family Partnership and National Paid Leave. Last year, she invested US$50 million in a plan to increase the representation and leadership of women in technology in the three cities over the next five years.
France Gates also worked with MacKenzie Scott to fund an effort, which has been accelerating his charitable donations after his divorce from Bezos. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge calls on organizations to apply for how they will spend $10 million to accelerate women’s empowerment. The winners will be announced this summer.