Bill Gates and wife splitting up after 27 years

Billionaire couple say union irretrievably broken, deal reached on division of assets

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, who are behind one of the world's largest private charitable foundations, command an estimated US$146 billion (S$195 billion).
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, who are behind one of the world's largest private charitable foundations, command an estimated US$146 billion (S$195 billion). PHOTO: NYTIMES

Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of one of the world's largest private charitable foundations, have filed for divorce after 27 years of marriage, saying they had reached an agreement on how to divide their assets.

In a joint petition for dissolution of marriage filed in Seattle on Monday, the couple stated: "The marriage is irretrievably broken."

The foundation said Mr Gates, 65, who co-founded Microsoft Corp, and Mrs Gates, 56, would continue to work together in their roles as co-chairs and trustees.

The divorce filing comes after the youngest of their three children is believed to have turned 18 recently. The couple also asked the court to approve their agreement on division of assets but did not disclose details.

The pair command an estimated US$146 billion (S$195 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

On the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest individuals, Mr Gates is ranked No. 4 with an estimated US$124 billion fortune.

"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the two said in a statement posted on each of their individual Twitter accounts.

"We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life."

Launched in 2000, the non-profit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one of the world's biggest, with net assets of US$43.3 billion at the end of 2019, according to the latest full-year financials shown on its website.

From 1994 to 2018, Mr Gates and his wife have provided gifts of over US$36 billion to the Seattle-based foundation, the website said.

Last year, investor Warren Buffett reported donating more than US$2 billion of stock from his Berkshire Hathaway to the Gates Foundation as part of previously announced plans to give away his entire fortune before his death.

The foundation has focused on public health, education and climate. Its initiatives include supporting development of Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostic tests and medical treatments, as well as support for public radio and the manufacture of solar-powered toilets.

The pair "will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation's issues and set the organisation's overall direction", the foundation said in a statement.

The split comes two years after another American billionaire and philanthropist, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, said he and his then wife MacKenzie were divorcing.

Mr Gates, who dropped out of Harvard University to start Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975, owned 49 per cent of the software company at its initial public offering in 1986, making him an instant multi-millionaire. With Microsoft's explosive growth, he soon became one of the world's wealthiest individuals.

Mrs Gates was raised in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University. After graduating, she joined Microsoft, where she met Bill.

In 2015, she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment firm focused on women, and in 2019 published a book, The Moment Of Lift, centred on female empowerment.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2021, with the headline 'Bill Gates and wife splitting up after 27 years'. Subscribe