Millionaires need friends too. Even billionaires. Everyone is looking for a guide, a mentor and someone to support them in their projects. And in the case of Bill Gates, that’s the businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffett. The 65-year-old Microsoft founder is close to the 90-year-old Berkshire Hathaway president, with whom he has shared confidences and millions for decades. But also solidarity ideas. So much so that Buffett is the third administrator of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, because he was one of the first people who opted for this new solidarity development. And he was also one of the first to know that the marriage, after 27 years married, was separating, as announced at the beginning of May.
Buffett met with Bill and Melinda just days before they announced their separation. In addition to the meetings they may have in private, the couple have an official one with him each year because Buffett is the third administrator of their charitable foundation. And it was a few days after that meeting that the Gates made their divorce public, something that they have not left to chance at all, according to the newspaper. The New York Times in an extensive report on the couple published this weekend. “By waiting until after their annual meeting, they saved Warren from having to deal with it,” explained one of the foundation’s employees to the New York newspaper.
Buffett will turn 91 next summer and, when last August he turned 90, the founder of Microsoft wanted to pay him a small tribute on his social networks by preparing him a huge chocolate cake surrounded by Oreo cookies “in honor of your nutritional preferences.” Something that accompanied with a letter which started with this message: “Of all the things I have learned from Warren Buffet (and there have been many), the most important could be what friendship is about. Here are the reasons why he is a person I admire and love ”.
The relationship between Gates and Buffett dates back to 1991, when they met, and has become so established that, as the one from Seattle revealed in that letter, he has two phone numbers stored in speed dial in his office: Melinda Gates’ and the Buffett himself. In fact, it was he who gave a certain configuration to the philanthropy of marriage as it is now. Your organization was created more than 20 years ago. Melinda Gates took on more tasks than her husband, dedicated then and until 2008 at Microsoft, although she kept a low profile. However, in 2006 Buffett decided to donate $ 31 billion to the foundation (which already had a fund of another $ 30,000). Then Buffett owned 44,000 million and that donation supposed 70% of his fortune. It donated another 15% more of it to four other foundations and has already announced that it intends to give up to 99% of it in solidarity.
Among his praises, Bill Gates affirms that his friend – with a fortune estimated by Forbes at € 90.32 billion – he has “an unwavering sense of right and wrong”, as well as “an incredible eye for talent”: “He buys big businesses run by brilliant people, and gives them the autonomy to make their own decisions”. In addition, he affirms that one of the lessons that have marked him from Buffett was when he told him that it was “important to join people who are better than yourself.” “The friends you have will make you go through life in a way. Make good friends, keep them for the rest of your life, but make them people you admire and like, “he said. “That’s the perfect description of what I think of Warren,” says Gates.
Since that act of transferring his fortune 15 years ago, Buffett has been linked to the marriage and also to its foundation, but always in a very discreet background, far behind Bill and Melinda. It was on that 2006 donation that they signed at the New York Public Library – one of the most iconic buildings in the city – that Melinda Gates began to take the course of the actions they wanted to take, gave a public speech for the first time and explained that it would invest in microcredits, agriculture and the fight against infectious diseases, as well as equality for women.
She herself has explained that this moment was key to her development and, as several of her collaborators explain, it was there that she was trained to do so and accepted the leadership position in which she was placed to give such a financial and social push to the foundation. “She saw clearly that she had to use her voice in favor of women,” says a doctor who has worked with her since 2008. A voice that has sometimes caused problems for the marriage. Melinda explained in her biography her disagreements with her husband because of the annual letter they both send, a kind of memorandum of their projects. “I thought we were killing each other. I thought it was the end of our marriage, “he said about the 2012 letter. The 2013 letter was signed by himself and she provided a small text. “Things got heated, we both got angry. It was a great test. It took us a while to solve it ”.
Other aspects of their relationship that could give clues to their separation was that they already had completely separate projects in their foundations (even with different names: Pivotal Ventures hers, founded in 2015; Gates Ventures his, founded in 2018 😉 and different interests. In addition, sources close to them affirm that the greater maturity of their children (Jessica is 25, Rory 21 and Phoebe 18) have also influenced them when it comes to going their separate ways.
Now it remains to be seen how this family restructuring affects his foundation, and if the three young Gates also enter it. In fact, the philanthropic organization is also facing changes after the death of Gates’ father last September – he was a member of the board of directors – and with the future departure of Buffett, given his age. For now, while he continues to mentor and support Bill Gates, Melinda has another mirror to look at: Mackenzie Scott (formerly Bezos). The ex-wife of the founder of Amazon is the richest woman in the world and is allocating her 53,000 million dollars (about 44,450 million euros) to social projects of more than 100 organizations in various fields.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.