Bill and Melinda Gates said Monday that they have decided to divorce after 27 years of marriage, but will continue to work together at their eponymous charity foundation, in a statement that shocked the world of philanthropy.
Bill, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, and Melinda, an author and businesswoman, announced their decision to split in an identical statement posted on their individual Twitter accounts.
“Over the past 27 years, we have raised three amazing children and built a foundation that works around the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives,” the statement said. “We continue to share faith in this mission and will continue to work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe that we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
The couple, who met at Microsoft and married in Hawaii in 1994, demanded confidentiality.
A joint petition to annul the marriage, filed by the couple at the King’s Supreme Court in Seattle, states: “The marriage has been irrevocably annulled.”
The couple asked the court to approve their agreement on the division of assets, but did not disclose details, Reuters reports.
– Melinda French Gates (@melindagates) May 3, 2021
Bill Gates, 65, founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen.
Its net worth is about $ 130.5 billion, according to Forbes, and it has donated shares to Microsoft for the pair’s fund worth $ 35.8 billion.
Last year, he announced that he would step down from the Microsoft board to focus his full-time job as co-chair of the foundation.
Melinda Gates, 56, is co-chair of the foundation and founder of Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company that focuses on developing the interests of American women and families.
Launched in 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private charity in the United States and one of the largest in the world, with net assets of $ 43.3 billion at the end of 2019, according to the website j.
The foundation provided $ 5.1 billion to grantees in 135 countries in 2019 and employs 1,602 people.
In 2020, the foundation announced that it is raising more than $ 1.75 billion to support the global response to COVID-19.
Since its inception, the foundation has said it has made more than $ 54.8 billion in direct payments, focusing its activities on health, development and climate.
The two “will continue to work together to shape and approve the foundation’s strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues and determine the overall direction of the organization,” the Gates Foundation said in a statement.
The Gates’ is the second high-level divorce among the super-rich in recent years. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie Scott divorced in 2019 after 25 years of marriage.
Scott, author and philanthropist, continued to donate $ 5.7 billion from his fortune in 2020 to charities focused on racial justice and food insecurity. Earlier this year, she married Dan Juet, who worked as a chemistry teacher at her children’s school.
David Callahan, founder of the Insider Philanthropy website and author of “Donors: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age,” says it’s too early to know how the Gates Foundation will affect the divorce.
Melinda Gates, who recently started using the name Melinda French Gates, turned her attention to women and girls and secured Scott’s support in the Gender Equality Fund, which is set to make its first awards later this year.
“You can imagine two separate songs where they both work together at the foundation, and each pursues their own independent philanthropy outside the foundation,” Callahan told the Associated Press.
“No one knows the terms of their divorce agreement. But if Melinda Gates ended up with some of that wealth and turned to creating her own foundation, it would be one of the largest foundations, probably in America. “