BreakingviewsCapital Calls: Gates split may hit charities more than investors

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates attend a news conference at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 30, 2009.

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SOFT FOUNDATION. Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates no longer believe they can “grow together as a couple”. The question for the world of philanthropy is whether the same goes for their eponymous charity. The Microsoft (MSFT.O) founder, who has a $131 billion net worth according to Forbes, announced the divorce along with his wife of 27 years late on Monday. Investors in the $1.9 trillion computing giant needn’t fret. Unlike in the divorce of (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos and Mackenzie Scott, there’s no important corporate stake up for grabs, as the Gates are not large shareholders.

The impact is less clear for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has paid out $68 billion in charitable grants, and as of 2019 had access to a further $50 billion in assets. The pair will remain co-chairs and trustees of the organisation, which has about 2,000 employees. But that looks like a potentially awkward arrangement. The risk for would-be recipients is that the Gates’ fortune and philanthropic endeavours both splinter after their divorce. (By Liam Proud)

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