Microsoft veteran Jeff Raikes named chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
A top ranking executive from Bill Gates' inner circle at Microsoft, Jeff Raikes, will become the next chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Seattle Times business reporter
A top ranking executive from Bill Gates' inner circle at Microsoft will become the next chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Jeff Raikes, 49, will succeed Patty Stonesifer as head of the world's largest philanthropy, managing a $37 billion endowment, $3 billion a year in grants, and ambitious goals such as eradicating malaria and developing a vaccine to prevent AIDS.
Raikes spent 27 years at Microsoft, longer than anyone besides Gates and Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. He follows Stonesifer as a Microsoft veteran with close connections to the Gates family stepping in to help run the philanthropy.
"Jeff brings more than 25 years of experience in the private sector and has earned a reputation as a trusted and respected leader," Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates said in a statement. "Equally important, he shares our passion for these issues and for continuing Patty's work to build a great culture at the foundation. 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."
The foundation hired recruiting firm Russell Reynolds to conduct an international search for the new CEO, and the firm eventually produced about 150 potential candidates, including political, academic and business leaders.
With Raikes, who is not well known outside the software industry, the foundation chose a trusted insider to manage a growing operation and enormous budget over an expert in global health, development or philanthropy.
"Joining the Gates Foundation is an honor and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to focus on improving the lives of others," Raikes said, praising the leadership of Stonesifer. "I am thrilled to join Bill and Melinda and this team because I'm convinced that through strong partnerships, ambitious goals, and a commitment to impact, we can transform people's lives."
"I've known and admired Jeff for more than 25 years," foundation co-chair Bill Gates said. "He's a smart, independent thinker who's passionate about using innovation to help people change their lives. I'm excited to be working with him again."
Yet the choice may fuel critics who say the foundation has been too technology-centric in its approach.
Raikes helped generate the profits that minted so many Microsoft millionaires and ultimately supports the Gates Foundation's work. He is best known for running Microsoft's cash cow, the Office applications business. He is president of the Microsoft Business Division, which generated $10.7 billion in fiscal 2007, more than half of the company's operating profit. He is also part of the company's senior leadership team.
Earlier this year Raikes announced he would retire in September, saying his next move would probably involve personal interests in public service, philanthropy and agriculture. His new job coincides with Bill Gates stepping from Microsoft to full-time philanthropy later this year.
The Nebraska native has a reputation for being humble, straightforward and well liked by people working under him.
He grew up on a farm outside of Omaha that his family has owned for 150 years, and initially prepared for a career in agriculture before discovering computers.
He is also intensely competitive.
An e-mail message Raikes sent to investor Warren Buffett in 1997 asking him to consider investing in Microsoft was later brought up as evidence against Microsoft in an antitrust case. Raikes described applications such as Office as a "moat" that protects the dominant Windows operating system business.
Almost a decade later, Buffett, also a Nebraska native, pledged most of his own fortune to the Gates Foundation. The gift will effectively double the foundation's annual spending by 2009, posing a challenge for the foundation to spend the money quickly and yet effectively, and almost double its staff without creating chaos.
Through the Raikes Family Foundation, Raikes and his wife, Tricia, have focused on education for underrepresented minorities. The foundation had more than $112 million in assets at the end of 2005, according to tax records. The couple chaired United Way of King County's fundraising drive for 2006-2007.
A graduate of Stanford University, Raikes created an undergraduate scholarship fund there to support students from rural and inner-city schools. He is also a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation.
Raikes is a devoted baseball fan and has been part owner of the Seattle Mariners since 1992.
In 2003, Forbes estimated Raikes' net worth at about $490 million. That includes more than 5 million Microsoft shares, according to a 2007 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Those shares are now worth about $157 million.
Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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