We have all heard of the OpenAI drama where Sam Altman was fired by OpenAI Board of Trustees.

That raises a question -- what stops the board of trustees from firing Gates from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? Since a 501(c)(3) doesn't have a "shareholder concept"? Why would billionaires still put their money in 501(c)(3), if they don't have full control?


2 Answers 2


Bill is one of the two co-chairs of the board of trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The board can only act through majorities that include both co-chairs. If Bill does not want to leave, the board cannot force him to. Bill is also not the CEO nor an employee of the foundation. The CEO is Mark Suzman, who is removable by the rest of the board. See clauses 2.2 and 3.1 of the Board Governing Principles.

People donate to charitable trusts because of their interest in contributing to the charitable purposes of the trust and the confidence they have in the trustees to use the funds according to the terms of the trust.


The mega-billionaire Bill Gates, even after all he's already donated, and after his divorce, is still worth $113 billion, and has pledged that almost all of it will go to charity at or before his death.

It is a fair assumption that most of that will go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mega-billionaire Warren Buffet, a friend of Bill Gates, has pledged likewise that 99% his $90 billion wealth will go to charity, with at least $55 billion going to Gates Foundation.

(The donations will be in the form of Bill Gate's Microsoft stock and Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway stock, which may be worth even more in the future)

So if Bill Gates was kicked off the foundation in a coup, it is very likely the Foundation would lose out on $150+ billion in expected future donations. Additionally, as it has Gate's name on it, and is funded by many of the wealthy people Bill Gates rubs shoulders with, it's likely the loss of future donations would exceed $200 billion.

The Gates Foundation currently has an endowment of $67 billion,

Bill Gates is 68 years old, and not in the best of health. In makes more sense to simply wait him out, and then there's no controversy, the organization you'd be in charge of would be sitting on a vastly larger treasure chest (triple or quadruple the size, from $67 billion to a likely $250 billion), and no fear of revolts from loyal employees, or retaliatory lawsuits from one of the worlds richest men.

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    Good answer except that it doesn’t address the legal dimension of the issue which was presumably what this was asking. However in practice questions of incentives are very much part of legal practice, so This could probably be improved by touching on whether any legal barriers prevent Gates’s ouster. Like for example at the end “but, apart from these incentives, nothing legally impedes this from happening.” I have become the second person who upvoted this. That said, the other answer given addresses the legal dimension directly and is thus superior. Nov 20 at 17:35
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    I absolutely agree the other answer is superior; I was originally going to write this as a comment to that answer, but it got too long, so I posted it as its own answer forgetting it was a law question. =P
    – Jamin Grey
    Nov 22 at 5:38

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