Warren Buffett announced Wednesday that he is donating another $4.1 billion to philanthropic organizations and is stepping down as trustee at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Buffett's latest distribution of wealth is part of a pledge he made in 2006 to give away all of the shares he owns in Berkshire Hathaway, the Nebraska-based conglomerate he has helmed since 1970. His Berkshire Hathaway shares comprise some 99% of his net worth and Buffet said he is "halfway there" in donating the majority of his wealth.
The recipients of Buffett's donations include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation that was named in honor of his late wife and philanthropic organizations founded by his children.
In a lengthy, self-reflective statement, Buffett said it was the "easiest deed in the world" to "give away money that will never be of any real use to you or your family."
"A much more admirable form of philanthropy than mine involves the giving of personal time and effort," he added. "I’ve done little of that."
"Those who give their love and time in order to directly help others -- perhaps adding a monetary gift that requires them to give up the purchase of something meaningful for their own use -- are the heroes of philanthropy," Buffett stated. "America has millions of such givers."
The billionaire said he has been an "inactive trustee" for years and has resigned from other corporate boards.
"My goals are 100% in sync with those of the foundation, and my physical participation is in no way needed to achieve these goals," Buffett said.
Buffett was one of only three trustees at the foundation -- the other two being Bill and Melinda Gates, who are in the process of divorcing.
In a letter sent to employees of the Gates Foundation, CEO Mark Suzman noted that Buffett is stepping down from his role as trustee but is "continuing his incredible financial support," noting that Wednesday’s gift was the largest to date and he has given nearly $33 billion to the foundation.
"I know Warren’s departure raises questions about the foundation’s governance," Suzman added. "As I have mentioned previously, I have been actively discussing with him, Bill, and Melinda approaches to strengthen our governance to provide long-term stability and sustainability for the foundation’s governance and decision-making in light of the recent announcement of Bill and Melinda’s divorce."
Suzman promised "additional information" will be coming in July.
Bill Gates, meanwhile, said in a statement that the foundation "will always have a deep sense of accountability to Warren, paying close attention to the data to track our progress and identify where we can do better."
"But the value of Warren’s gift goes beyond anything that can be measured," Bill Gates added. "I am truly grateful for his wisdom and leadership, and most of all for his enduring friendship. Warren will continue to inspire our foundation as we work to fight poverty and help millions of people live healthier lives."
Melinda Gates added in a separate statement that she is "grateful for Warren’s generosity, his leadership, and his friendship."
"His wisdom has been a guiding light through our foundation’s second decade, and the things we’ve learned from him will continue to help us chart a way forward," she added.
After nearly three decades of marriage, Bill and Melinda Gates announced last month that they were divorcing, but said they will keep working together at their foundation.