Gates merges funds, becomes biggest philanthropist

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Tue Aug 24 13:35:03 PDT 1999

[In his latest book, George Soros said that Gates would step up his philanthropic activities to spruce up his image after the antitrust lawsuit - "as a business strategy." Takes one to know one, I guess.]

Chronicle of Higher Education - web daily - August 23, 1999

Gateses Merge Foundations to Create America's Wealthiest Philanthropy


Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, is merging two of his foundations to form the wealthiest philanthropy in the United States. Officials of the merged foundation say that its focus on higher education is likely to increase.

On Sunday, Mr. Gates and his wife, Melinda, announced that they were consolidating the William H. Gates Foundation and the Gates Learning Foundation into a single entity: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The couple added $6-billion to the fund, bringing its net worth to $17.1-billion. The next-richest foundation in the country is the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, with a total value of $13-billion, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Mr. Gates decided to consolidate his philanthropic organizations because the interests of the two endowments -- global health and learning -- are closely aligned.

"The merger was driven by the idea that we were continuing to increase the scale of our philanthropy, to reach out to new partners, and to see areas of overlap," said Patty Stonesifer, the co-chairwoman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "There are many areas for synergy. And the merger makes it easier to reduce administrative overhead and make sure that people work together." Despite the infusion of funds, the Gates family has no plans to expand its philanthropic agenda. Making technological advances in global health and learning available to the less fortunate will continue to be the priority.

Recent gifts include $50-million for a program at Columbia University to reduce the mortality of women in developing countries due to pregnancy or childbirth; $20-million to the Johns Hopkins University to study population control and reproductive health; and $200-million to bring computers, Internet access, and technology training to libraries in low-income areas in the United States and Canada.

Although most of the foundation's learning grants have focused on libraries and kindergarten-through-12th-grade education, Ms. Stonesifer said that academe will become an increasing priority. "We anticipate other higher-education programs, but they're still in development" Ms. Stonesifer said. "We're still weighing the needs."

New grants for higher education will be announced this fall, she said.

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