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As Bill And Melinda Gates Split, Warren Buffet’s Role As Peacemaker

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As Bill And Melinda Gates Split, Warren Buffet’s Role As Peacemaker


As Bill And Melinda Gates Split, Warren Buffet’s Role As Peacemaker

The couple oversees the largest private foundation in the world. (File)

As a married couple, Bill and Melinda Gates spent decades amassing one of history’s largest fortunes. Now that they’re divorcing, they have to untangle that $145 billion.

Details of the split have already started to emerge.

Cascade Investment, a holding company Bill created with his Microsoft Corp. winnings, transferred securities worth more than $1.8 billion to Melinda French Gates, according to U.S. regulatory filings dated May 3. The shift comprised about $1.5 billion of Canadian National Railway Co. shares and more than $300 million of AutoNation Inc. stock. Cascade currently holds securities valued at more than $50 billion, including stakes in Republic Services Inc., Deere & Co. and Ecolab Inc.

How their wealth is ultimately divvied up is set to shake up the uppermost ranks of the world’s richest people and could have billion-dollar implications on what philanthropic causes get attention. The couple oversees the largest private foundation in the world and has promised that the majority of their wealth will be donated.

In announcing the split, the couple said they will both remain involved in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has contributed vast sums to the realms of global health, climate change policy and social issues. But the $50 billion operation — with billions more still to be given — depends on the cooperation of two exes.

“As uncomfortable as it is, their personal relationship is going to have huge consequences for where the money goes,” said Benjamin Soskis, senior research associate at the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. “The Gates Foundation is the most influential and important philanthropic organization in the world, not only in terms of its assets and grantmaking. Bill and Melinda themselves have each become incredibly influential public figures in their own rights.”

The split, after 27 years of marriage, comes just two years after the 2019 separation announcement of Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott, another billionaire tech couple in Washington state. That divorce led to a 75-25 split of the couple’s 16% stake in Amazon.com Inc. for Bezos and Scott, respectively.

It made Scott the fourth richest woman in the world and rippled through the global philanthropic landscape as she became one of the most prolific donors of 2020, contributing to gender equality causes alongside Melinda French Gates.

The Gates fortune, at $145 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, could prove more complex to carve up than the Bezos assets, which were largely concentrated in Amazon stock.

Multiple Assets

The couple’s net worth originated with Bill’s stake in Microsoft, but shares of the software-maker now probably make up less than 20% of their assets. They’ve shifted much of his holding into the Gates Foundation over the years and his exact stake hasn’t been disclosed since he left Microsoft’s board last year.

The biggest asset is Cascade Investment, which is run by money manager Michael Larson. Through Cascade, Gates has interests in real estate, energy and hospitality as well as public companies. Canadian National is the third-biggest public equity holding. Cascade transferred 14.1 million shares to Melinda, and has 87.3 million shares, which are owned by Bill, the regulatory filing shows.

The couple are also among the largest landowners in America and have homes including their 66,000 square-foot mansion in Medina, Washington.

The rapid stock transfer could be a sign that it’s already been decided how the fortune will be split.

“I would imagine that almost everything is done,” said Jacqueline Newman, a divorce attorney and managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP. “For them to issue this kind of statement, they have probably worked out 90-95% of the divorce. They’re not putting something like this out otherwise.”

Community Property State

The Gateses live in Washington, which is a community property state. That means that anything acquired during a marriage is considered to be equally owned by both partners. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their fortune will be evenly split.

“It is not a mandatory 50-50,” said Janet George, a family lawyer in Washington with the firm McKinley Irvin. “The courts can award more or less, depending on what is just and equitable.”

Details of their division may never be publicly revealed because they’re likely hidden behind the couple’s private contracts, George said. Their stakes in public companies that are large enough to have to report holdings will give a peek behind the curtain.

Gates Foundation

What the couple owns is one thing, but much of their focus over the past couple of decades has been on what to give away.

The foundation is one of the largest private charitable foundations in the world, having made almost $55 billion in grant payments through the end of 2019. A former general manager at Microsoft, Melinda helps drive strategy at the organization, with a particular focus on gender equity. Bill has been more focused on the science and global health side of their giving.

“Bill and Melinda will remain co-chairs and trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” a spokesperson for the foundation wrote in an emailed statement. “No changes to their roles or the organization are planned. They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction.”

Both Bill and Melinda Gates “were not just behind the scenes players. They were decision makers,” said Soskis of the Urban Institute, whose own work has been supported by the Gates Foundation.

In cases where a wealthy philanthropic couple splits up, their foundations are sometimes divided as well, said Mela Garber, a tax principal at the accounting and advisory firm Anchin in New York who specializes in matrimonial matters.

Even when divorces are amicable, Garber said, “they might not want to be together at certain meetings and fundraising, and have the same level of involvement with people around.” The complexities of two exes working together can become clearer as time goes on, she said. “Creating two new foundations eliminates a huge area of tension.”

Splitting the Gates Foundation is difficult for many philanthropic experts to imagine. However, “they could pursue separate goals within the confines of the foundation itself,” said Brian Mittendorf, an Ohio State University professor who studies nonprofits.

Famous Names

Already a household name thanks to his previous status as the world’s richest man, Bill Gates became even more famous when he emerged as a go-to expert on the pandemic at a time when official guidance was often confusing and contradictory. His work has made him a target of conspiracy theories as well as controversies over patents and how to open up global access to the vaccines.

For her part, Melinda French Gates has raised her own profile with the publication of a book, “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World,” in 2019. She has in recent years helped shift the foundation’s strategy, as a “top-down, technocratic” approach to giving has become more responsive to “community needs and community input,” Soskis said.

Despite its size, the Gates Foundation’s board only has three members: Bill, Melinda, and Warren Buffett — who has promised to devote bulk of his own considerable fortune to his friends’ foundation. That means disagreements between the two exes may need to be settled by the 90-year-old billionaire.

“To the extent to which they have huge divergent interests that would arise, Buffett would play an important role,” Ohio State University’s Mittendorf said.

The pair could also pursue their separate interests outside the foundation, in their investments and personal philanthropy. Bill Gates, for example, founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund that fights climate change by investing in startups with the potential to cut global annual emissions by as much as 500 million tons each year. Other backers include Bezos and Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP.

In 2015, Melinda French Gates started Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company, “as a separate, independent organization to identify, help develop and implement innovative solutions to problems affecting U.S. women and families.”

In 2019, French Gates committed $1 billion to speed up the pace at which women gained power and influence in the U.S. A year later, Pivotal announced it’d be partnering with MacKenzie Scott to start the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, a $30 million award to organizations that come up with ways to advance women’s power by 2030.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Over 17.15 Crore Free Covid Vaccine Doses Given To States, UTs: Centre

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Over 17.15 Crore Free Covid Vaccine Doses Given To States, UTs: Centre


Over 17.15 Crore Free Covid Vaccine Doses Given To States, UTs: Centre

Over 28 lakh vaccine doses will be received by the states, UTs in the next 3 days (Representational)

New Delhi:

More than 17.15 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been so far provided free of cost to states and union territories, the central government informed on Thursday.

More than 89 lakh doses are still available with the states and UTs to be administered, said the union health ministry in a statement. It also added that over 28 lakh doses, in addition, will be received by the states and UTs in the next three days.

The country had started the COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 with two vaccines — Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited).

The second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive to inoculate people above 60 years and those over 45 with comorbidities against the coronavirus began on March 1. The third phase began on April 1 for all above 45 years of age, while people aging above 18 to 45 became eligible for inoculation in the next phase which commenced on May 1.

The country has been witnessing a massive surge in COVID-19 infections and on Wednesday registered 4,12,262 new cases and 3,980 related deaths, as per the government data.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Constitutional Authorities, Stop Complaints On Media Reports: Supreme Court

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Constitutional Authorities, Stop Complaints On Media Reports: Supreme Court


Constitutional Authorities, Stop Complaints On Media Reports: Supreme Court

“It would be retrograde for the Supreme Court to gag media,” the Supreme Court said.

New Delhi:

Constitutional authorities can do better than to complain and ask for fetters on the media, the Supreme Court said today on the Election Commission’s petition complaining about media reports on the Madras High Court telling the poll body it should be booked for murder for not stopping political rallies amid Covid.

“It would be retrograde for the Supreme Court to gag media,” the Supreme Court said.

“We find no substance in prayer of EC to restrain media from reporting court proceedings. It is essential to hold judiciary accountable.” 

The Justice DY Chandrachud-led bench did say the remarks made by the Madras High Court were “harsh and the metaphor improper” and judicial restraint was necessary.

“There is a need for judicial restraint for off the cuff remarks which is open for misinterpretation. Judicial language is important for constitutional ethos. Power of judicial review is so high that it forms a basic structure,” the top court observed. The Election Commission had been conducting free and fair polls, it added.

However, the High Court was faced with rising Covid cases and the task of protecting the lives and liberty of people, the court said.

“Open access to courts is a valuable safeguard to constitutional freedom. Freedom of the press is a facet of constitutional freedom of speech and expression,” said the Supreme Court.

The Election Commission had complained about being “castigated without any evidence” when the Madras High Court reprimanded it on campaigns in the middle of a Covid surge.

The Madras High Court on April 26 said the Election Commission “should probably be booked for murder” for allowing crowded election campaigns and was “singularly responsible” for the current Covid spike. But these observations did not make it to the final order, which said “at no cost can counting become a catalyst for a further surge”.

The Election Commission last week approached the Supreme Court against what it called “blatantly disparaging remarks” and said the media should be stopped from reporting observations. It also said it was the government under the Disaster Management Authority that had to manage the rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister (E Palaniswami) and “they committed the breach”.

The Supreme Court said: “Something is observed in the larger public interest. The Election Commission should treat it as a bitter pill in the right spirit.”



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Kerala To Enforce Lockdown From May 8 To 16 Amid Rising Covid Cases

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Kerala To Enforce Lockdown From May 8 To 16 Amid Rising Covid Cases


Kerala To Enforce Lockdown From May 8 To 16 Amid Rising Covid Cases

Kerala Lockdown: India has crossed the grim milestone of 2 lakh Covid deaths

New Delhi:

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday announced a statewide lockdown from May 8-16 to fight the surge in coronavirus cases.

Most states have taken to partial lockdowns or containment measures to fight the deadly sweep of the second wave of infections.

Yesterday, the centre’s top scientific adviser warned about the “inevitable” third wave of coronavirus, adding that vaccines will need to be “updated” to deal with the new strains that have overwhelmed hospitals and left thousands dead.

India has crossed the grim milestone of 2 lakh Covid deaths.

In his address to the nation last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi likened the second surge of coronavirus to a storm and urged state governments to use lockdowns as an absolute last resort. He stressed on micro containment measures and Covid-appropriate behaviour to beat the virus.

 



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