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Melinda French Quits Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation;  Statement from CEO Mark Suzman

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I am writing to share some important news. Melinda French Gates has decided to resign from her role as co-chair of the foundation. Her last day of work at the foundation will be June 7. Melinda cares deeply about the foundation and is extremely proud of all of you and the work you do every day to help millions of people live better lives. She made this decision, after considerable reflection, based on how she wants to spend the next chapter of her philanthropy. Melinda has new ideas about the role she wants to play in improving the lives of women and families in the U.S. and around the world. And, after a difficult few years watching women’s rights rolled back in the U.S. and around the world, she wants to use this next chapter to focus specifically on altering that trajectory.

I recognize this is very sad news, and we all need time to process it. Many of you have worked closely with Melinda or were drawn to the foundation because of her global leadership, particularly in gender equality, and her ability to connect our work to the people who need support the most. In starting the foundation and setting our values, she has played an essential role in all that we’ve accomplished over the past 24 years. I know how beloved Melinda is here. This is difficult news for me, too. Like you, I truly admire Melinda, and I will deeply miss working with her and learning from her.

I want to reassure you that the millions of people our work serves and the thousands of partners we work alongside can continue to count on the foundation. With Melinda and Bill’s strong encouragement, I am more committed than ever to leading the foundation. I’ve also spoken with the Executive Leadership Team and each of our independent board members, who are all committed to carrying out the foundation’s work. As the world faces profound inequity and suffering, we all believe our role is more important than ever.

Bill and Melinda created the foundation with a simple belief: All lives have equal value. I believe wholeheartedly in our mission that everyone deserves the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. I have been reminded firsthand in recent trips from Texas to Ethiopia about the unique role the Gates Foundation plays in providing opportunities and changing lives.

Even in this transition, it’s important to remember that we are part of something historic. It’s a unique privilege to be part of an institution that exists solely to make the world better—with the resources to make a real difference.

In our first quarter century, guided by Bill Gates, Sr. and with the immense generosity and vision of Bill, Melinda, and Warren Buffett, we have made significant contributions to the world, saving and improving tens of millions of lives in partnership with a network of thousands of brilliant partners. Next year, we will celebrate our 25th anniversary, looking back at our historic impact and looking forward to a future where more people can thrive—no matter where they are born.

As we move to an unprecedented annual payout of $9 billion, we have the opportunity to continue to reduce the number of women who die in childbirth and children who die before their fifth birthdays. Eradicate polio and possibly even malaria. Expand the number of women who are running their own businesses and pulling their families out of poverty. Ensure more people in the United States and around the world have access to the tools and resources they need to educate and feed their children and take care of their health.

Melinda will not be bringing any of the foundation’s work with her when she leaves. We will be changing our name to the Gates Foundation to honor Bill Sr.’s legacy and Melinda’s contributions, and Bill will become the sole Chair of the foundation.

As Bill and Melinda both stressed to me, the foundation today is stronger than it has ever been, and that’s thanks to all of you and our partners. Collectively, your expertise, passion for the mission, and commitment to impact—measured in lives saved and opportunities provided—inspire me every day to do the best job I possibly can as your CEO. I look forward to continuing that work with you now and into the future, and I know we all wish Melinda the best in her next chapter.

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