Who Is Nicole Shanahan, woman at centre of Musk-Brin drama?

Ms Nicole Shanahan and Google co-founder Sergey Brin announced in June they would separate after a three-year marriage. PHOTO: COURTESY OF NICOLE SHANAHAN

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Silicon Valley entrepreneur and philanthropist Nicole Shanahan emerged over the weekend at the centre of a rift between two of the world's richest men, Sergey Brin and Elon Musk.

Shanahan and Brin have been married for over three years but announced in June they plan to divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences".

The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Musk and Shanahan had an extramarital affair, an allegation that Musk has since denied.

Shanahan and Brin signed a pre-nuptial agreement and are currently negotiating the terms of their divorce, in which she seeks more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion), according to the report. That could put the settlement of her divorce in the same league as those of billionaire philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Melinda Gates.

Lawyer, founder

Now an attorney and a research fellow at CodeX, the Stanford Centre for Legal Informatics, Shanahan founded ClearAccessIP, a Palo Alto-based firm that helps patent owners manage and monetise their intellectual property rights. It was acquired by rival IPwe in 2020.

A daughter of Chinese immigrants, Shanahan has talked about her mother, who worked as a maid, and growing up on public assistance. According to her LinkedIn profile, she graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, where she studied economics, Asian studies and Mandarin Chinese. She earned her law degree at Santa Clara University, doing a stint as an exchange student at the National University of Singapore.

Foundation work

In 2019, Shanahan started her own foundation, Bia-Echo, and pledged US$100 million to reproductive longevity - access to medical technologies that help women bear children later in life - and criminal justice reform, along with other issues.

She is also a supporter of left-leaning organisations and Democratic political candidates.

"I want to get the word out that and assure everyone that I am committed as ever to dedicating my life's work to social justice, climate solutions and a thoughtful, caring democracy," Shanahan said in an interview with Puck this month.

"And I actually think that as I move forward out of this separation, I feel very optimistic in how I might grow in this role."

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