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Bill Gates, Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2019.Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, who made the company one of the world’s most valuable technology firms, stepped down from the board on Friday to focus on philanthropic works related to global health, education and climate change.

The billionaire and his wife Melinda run one of the world’s largest charities, the Gates Foundation, which has billions in assets and funds global health programs to combat disease and poverty.

Mr. Gates quit his full-time executive role at Microsoft in 2008 and remained as chairman of the board till 2014. Since then he has been a board member.

“It’s been a tremendous honour and privilege to have worked with and learned from Bill over the years,” Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella said.

With the departure of Mr. Gates from the Microsoft board, it will now consist of 12 members, the company said.

Mr. Gates also stepped down from the board of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., where he has served since 2004. He is expected to be replaced by Kenneth Chenault, who spent 17 years as chief executive of American Express Co.

The change was disclosed in Berkshire’s annual proxy filing, ahead of its scheduled May 2 annual meeting.

Mr. Gates, 64, has served on Berkshire’s board since 2004 but devotes much of his attention to his charitable organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

He is also the world’s second-richest person, worth US$103.6-billion, according to Forbes magazine. Mr. Buffett ranks fourth, at US$76-billion.

Neither Berkshire nor the Gates Foundation immediately responded to requests for comment.

Mr. Chenault, 68, led American Express from January, 2001, to February, 2018, and became one of the most prominent black CEOs in corporate America.

Berkshire is the largest shareholder in American Express, ending 2019 with an 18.7-per-cent stake in the travel and financial services company.

It said its governance committee reviewed 23 possible candidates for board seats in 2019, and Mr. Chenault emerged as “a standout and unanimous choice.”

The proxy filing also detailed compensation for top Berkshire executives in 2019.

Mr. Buffett, 89, was awarded US$374,773, including his usual US$100,000 salary plus US$274,773 for personal and home security services.

Vice-Chairmen Greg Abel, 57, and Ajit Jain, 68, who respectively oversee Berkshire’s non-insurance and insurance operations, were each awarded US$19-million, up from US$18-million in 2018.

Mr. Buffett sets compensation for Mr. Abel and Mr. Jain, who many investors view as top candidates to eventually succeed him as chief executive. Berkshire does not grant stock options.

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