Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman and CEO of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, is resigning from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for probably no particular reason at all, why do you ask?
The New York Times reported that Buffet — a close friend and bridge partner of Microsoft co-founder and former chairman Bill Gates for decades — gave no reason for his decision to cease his role as a trustee. It’s particularly notable because the 90-year-old Buffett gave $US30.1 ($39) billion to the foundation in 2006 and, according to the Times, said in a statement he has since donated another $US4 ($5) billion on top of that. In that statement, Buffett went out of his way to distance himself from the charitable organisation, saying he hadn’t been active in the role for an unspecified time.
“For years I have been a trustee — an inactive trustee at that — of only one recipient of my funds, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMG),” Buffett wrote in the statement. “I am now resigning from that post, just as I have done at all corporate boards other than Berkshire’s.”
While Buffett may have elected not to explain his decision, it’s easy to speculate that it has something to do with a number of blows to Bill Gates’s reputation in recent years. Those include his impending divorce from his spouse Melinda, which reportedly has something to do with news breaking of his years-long habit of socialising with notorious, late billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein (including at the latter’s residence) against her wishes. It also includes reports, acknowledged as true by spokespeople for Gates, that he had an affair with a Microsoft employee around the year 2000.
Microsoft launched an investigation into Gates’s inappropriate relationship with a subordinate in 2019. Around the same time, Gates resigned as the company’s chairman, though his spokespeople insisted there was no connection. Despite mounting evidence that he and Epstein hung out on numerous occasions and one report that the Microsoft founder even tried to lean on Epstein’s social connections to win himself a Nobel Peace Prize, spokespeople for Gates have similarly insisted he only met with the convicted pedophile in the hopes of attracting charitable donations. Gates resigned from Berkshire Hathaway’s board in 2000, though he went out of his way to specify his friendship with Buffett wasn’t ending.
Gates has also attracted a fair amount of flak related to his extensive efforts during the coronavirus pandemic to centre intellectual property rights in the global vaccine distribution effort, though Berkshire Hathaway bought heavily into pharmaceutical stocks that would benefit from that. Joe Biden’s administration has said that he supports waiving the World Trade Organisation’s Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights for coronavirus vaccines, although the pharmaceutical industry has fought it strenuously.
Buffett, as the Times noted, has seen his own image take a hit recently. ProPublica recently published a leak of Internal Revenue Service documents showing despite a gain of $US24.3 ($31) billion in Buffett’s net worth over the years 2014 to 2018, he was able to skate by paying just $US23.7 ($30) million in taxes. In his statement to the paper, Buffett claimed he had “relatively little” income as most of his wealth was in Berkshire Hathaway holdings and that he only saved 40 cents ($0.51) in taxes for every $US1,000 ($1,283) he donated.