Melinda Gates, a philanthropist and women’s empowerment campaign, could become the second richest woman in the world with a fortune estimated at $ 73 billion.
In a divorce petition filed Monday at King’s High Court in Seattle, Washington, Melinda Gates said her marriage to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, one of the richest people on the planet, was “irrevocably broken.”
The 50-50 split is likely because filing for divorce also reveals that the couple – who married in 1994 after first playing her as Cluedo (she won) – did not sign. prenuptial agreement and under Washington state law, divorced couples are expected to share their assets equally.
If that continues, Melinda French Gates – who recently introduced her maiden name French on her social media accounts – will only be behind Françoise Bettencourt Myers, the 67-year-old owner of L’Oreal, whose fortune now costs about $ 83.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Bill Gates is currently ranked as the fourth richest man in the world, with a fortune totaling about $ 146 billion. However, he would have been far richer – and perhaps still the richest man in the world – if he had not already donated at least $ 40 billion to the couple’s charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The divorce also calls into question the future of the couple’s charitable efforts through the foundation, which also attracts money from other donors, ranging from billionaire Warren Buffett to the British government. Although the couple said they would remain co-chairs of the foundation, some experts speculate that the divorcing couple may have different and unequivocal views on the future direction of charity.
It is a huge foundation with 1,600 Seattle-based employees who have allocated $ 50 billion to projects in 135 countries since its inception in 2000 and still have assets worth $ 43 billion.
It focuses on projects to improve global health, education and gender equality with great ambitions – bidding to eradicate certain diseases, such as polio, completely. It also provides support in case of natural disasters. Last year, the foundation provided $ 1.8 billion in emergency medical supplies for coronavirus, PPE and vaccines. Another $ 2 billion is earmarked for an attempt to eradicate malaria within a generation and $ 1.6 billion to help colored students in the United States.
Rob Reich, a professor of political science at Stanford University, said: “Because the Gates Foundation is a family foundation and the Gates are breaking up their family, divorce can have huge consequences for the foundation and its work around the world.”
The couple’s stunning personal fortune includes their $ 66,000-foot main home overlooking Lake Washington, which is valued at $ 130 million, and a series of vacation homes such as a $ 43 million oceanfront home near San Diego Ranch at $ 59 million in Florida and a 492-acre ranch in Wyoming.
In addition to the real estate portfolio, the couple owns several private jets and a fleet of cars, including a rare $ 2 million Porsche 959 and an electric Porsche Taycan. Their main home in Medina, across Seattle’s Lake Washington, has garages that can accommodate up to 23 cars.
Their main home, known as Xanadu 2.0 after the huge fictional mansion of Charles Foster Kane in the 1941 film Citizen Kane, was built of 500 Douglas fir trees and has at least six kitchens.
There is also a pool house with a 60-foot swimming pool with an underwater sound system, while for those who want to play sports without getting wet, there is a trampoline room.
In the main house there is a library with an area of 2100 square meters with a domed roof. A quote from the Great Gatsby is engraved on the ceiling. The library houses the Codex Leicester, a 16th-century manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci that Gates bought at auction for $ 31 million in 1994.
The 2,300-square-foot ballroom can accommodate up to 150 people for a formal dinner or accommodate 200 people for a cocktail party.
Gates is also one of the largest private landowners in the United States, with about 242,000 acres in 18 different states, worth about $ 700 million. To put this in perspective, farms are almost as large as Hong Kong.
Washington State is one of the few states in the United States with so-called “community property” laws, which assume that most property acquired during a marriage belongs together to the spouses and must be divided equally. The couple is due to appear in court in April 2022.
Gates’ breakup came shortly after Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon and the richest man in the world, broke up with his 25-year-old wife Mackenzie Scott. Their divorce in 2019 – also in Washington state – made Scott the fourth richest woman in the world with a fortune of 38 billion dollars. Since then, its wealth, which is held primarily in Amazon shares, has risen to $ 60 billion as Amazon’s share price has risen and it has distributed billions of charitable gifts – $ 6 billion in 2020 alone.
French Gates and Scott collaborated last year to launch a $ 30 million project called “Equality Can’t Wait for a Challenge” to expand the influence of women in the United States.
Melinda, described by Forbes magazine as “the most powerful woman” in philanthropy, also founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company focused on women, family and social progress.
In 2019, she published a book, The Moment of Lifting, on the importance of women’s empowerment. Speaking of her husband in the book, she said, “He had to learn how to be equal, and I had to learn how to strengthen myself and be equal.”
In an interview to promote the book, she said: “Bill and I are equal partners. Men and women must be equal at work. “
The couple has three children: Jennifer, 25; Rory, 21; and Phoebe, 18. Jennifer Gates, writing on Instagram, said it was “a challenging time for our whole family.”
The Gates Foundation said the couple will remain co-chairs and trustees of the organization, which is a driving force for improving health care, early childhood education and promoting vaccination around the world. “They will continue to work together to formulate and approve the foundation’s strategies, advocate for the foundation’s problems and determine the general direction of the organization,” the foundation said.