Bill and Melinda Gates have announced they are divorcing after 27 years of marriage, saying “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple”.
They tweeted, “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.”
Bill Gates is the fourth wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes and the divorce will put the couple’s hundred billion-dollar fortune on the line.
They first met in 1987, when Melinda joined Bill’s Microsoft company as a product manager. They have three children and jointly run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which has spent billions fighting causes such as infectious diseases and encouraging vaccinations in children.
The Gates are behind the Giving Pledge, which calls on billionaires to commit to giving away the majority of their wealth to good causes.
He made his money through the firm he co-founded in the 1970s, Microsoft, the world’s biggest software company.
The pair tweeted, “Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives. We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation.”
Melinda said she found Bill methodical, even in matters of the heart – he wrote a list on a whiteboard with the “pros and the cons of getting married”.
They married in 1994 on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, reportedly hiring up all the local helicopters to stop unwanted guests flying over.
Bill Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board last year to focus on his philanthropic activities.
He remains one of the largest individual Microsoft shareholders, holding more than 100 million shares as of Dec. 2019, as reported by The New York Times.
He has consistently been named one of the richest people in the world and has an estimated net worth of US$130.5 billion, according to Forbes. His actual worth fluctuates due to stock prices.
It is not clear whether the Gates’ have a prenuptial agreement to divide their vast assets. The New York Times referenced that the pair reportedly had a prenup in a 1997 article.
Among their notable assets, the Gates’ have a mansion in Washington state that has been estimated to be worth more than US$120 million.
Washington is a community property state. That means if a couple is unable to reach an agreement as to how to divide marital assets, a judge will generally divide community property equally between the pair – referring to assets acquired during their marriage.