By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation yesterday tapped veteran Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes as chief executive of the world's largest charitable foundation.
Raikes replaces Patty Stonesifer, who announced in February that she is stepping down after serving as chief executive since the foundation's inception in 1997.
The Seattle foundation has more than 500 employees and an endowment of $37.3 billion. It has awarded billions of dollars in grants to U.S. education programs and global health and development initiatives. The foundation has shaped a new approach to giving by using a business investment model and is a closely watched trendsetter in the philanthropy world.
Raikes, 49, joined Microsoft in 1981 and most recently served as president of Microsoft's business software division, which is responsible for the company's Office software suite, server software and other business applications. Raikes will begin his new job Sept. 2.
Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and co-chairman of the foundation, said he has known and admired Raikes for more than 25 years. "He's a smart, independent thinker who's passionate about using innovation to help people change their lives," Gates said in a statement.
Melinda Gates, foundation co-chair, said she and her husband considered "many extraordinary candidates from around the world."
"Jeff is the right CEO to lead the strategies we have in place to help reduce inequities in the United States and around the world," she said in a statement.
At Microsoft, Raikes helped expand its business-productivity line. In January, he announced his retirement from Microsoft.
Raikes called the new job a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to focus on improving the lives of others."
"I'm convinced that through strong partnerships, ambitious goals, and a commitment to impact, we can transform people's lives," Raikes said in a statement.
Raikes, a longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, established the Raikes Foundation to focus on children, education and community issues. In 1992, he joined other Seattle business leaders to buy the Seattle Mariners baseball club.
He earned a bachelor's degree in engineering and economic systems from Stanford University. A native Nebraskan, he is also a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation.
Raikes's Nebraska roots are important considering that the Gates Foundation's third-largest donor is Warren Buffett, president of Berkshire Hathaway of Omaha. In 2006, Buffett signed over nearly $31 billion of his company's stock to the Gates Foundation.
"We have chosen a leader who embodies the characteristics essential to continuing this work: an extraordinary mind and an uncompromising commitment to getting the job done," Buffett said in a statement.