Bill and Melinda Gates announced last Monday (03) that they will divorce after 27 years together, ending one of the most famous weddings in the business world.
They met in the 1980s, when Melinda joined Microsoft, the company founded by Bill, and formalized their union in 1994. The billionaire couple has three children and jointly runs the Bill and Melinda Gates charity foundation.
In a short message on Twitter, published in their individual accounts, the two announced the separation, saying: “we no longer believe that we can grow as a couple”.
“After a lot of thinking and working hard on our relationship, we made the decision to end our marriage,” says the jointly signed note.
Bill and Melinda Gates say in the statement that they will continue to work together on the foundation. In another note, the foundation said that Bill and Melinda “would remain co-chairs and trustees” and that “no change in their roles or organization is planned”.
The couple also gave no details on how their estimated fortune of more than $ 124 billion (about $ 668 billion) will be divided. In the statement posted on Twitter, they ask for “space and privacy” at this time.
Forbes magazine lists Bill Gates as the fourth richest individual on the planet, behind entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bernard Arnault.
Melinda does not appear at the top of Forbes’ list of the richest women, as her fortune is counted along with Bill’s. If the fortune were split in half, Melinda would be catapulted to the top positions on the female list. However, there is no information on how the couple intends to share the assets.
Forbes magazine highlighted Melinda as the fifth most powerful woman in the world in her ranking last year. She is the first woman outside the political world to appear on the list (which is led by Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, Kamala Harris and Ursula von der Leyen).
Unlike the separation of Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott two years ago, which raised doubts about what the power division at Amazon would look like, as there would be a reduction in Jeff’s voting power at the company, the separation of Bill and Melinda should have little impact. in the management of Microsoft. That’s because Bill left the company’s board of directors a year ago.
But it is not known how the money that the couple obtained with the company over the years will be divided. The two would not have made a prenuptial agreement before getting married.
Billionaire philanthropy foundation
There are also doubts about the future of Bill and Melinda’s philanthropic work.
A source linked to the foundation set up by the couple told the British newspaper Financial Times that the two are known for pragmatism, and that they will likely continue to collaborate so as not to weaken charity work.
According to the newspaper, within the foundation, divisions have already been created between teams aligned to projects in which Bill is interested, such as new health technologies, including messenger RNA vaccines used in the pandemic, or projects in which Melinda is interested, such as equality of gender. Bill also recently published a book on global warming.
How is the couple’s philanthropy work?
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent billions battling causes like infectious diseases and encouraging vaccinations for children.
The Gates – along with investor Warren Buffett – are behind the Giving Pledge, an initiative that invites billionaires to commit to donating most of their wealth to good causes.
Most of the couple’s philanthropic activity is done through their foundation, which was created in 2000 in Seattle.
It focuses primarily on public health, education and climate change, and has helped fund about $ 1.75 billion in vaccine and research initiatives during the covid-19 pandemic.
In 2019, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had more than $ 43 billion in net assets. Between 1994 and 2018, the couple injected more than $ 36 billion into the foundation.
What is Melinda’s role in philanthropic decisions?
Forbes says Melinda is the most powerful woman in the world of philanthropy, highlighting her work on women’s rights, gender equality, education, combating poverty and sanitation.
“Bill and I are equal partners,” Melinda told the Associated Press in a 2019 interview. “Men and women must be equal at work.”
In her recent memoir The Moment to Fly, she wrote about her childhood, life and personal struggles as the wife of a celebrity in the business world and the mother of three children.
Melinda argues in the publication that working side by side with Bill at the Foundation has improved the couple’s relationship. “He had to learn how to be equal, and I had to learn how to progress and be equal,” she wrote.
Many say that Melinda was the biggest influence on the change that happened in Bill’s career in recent decades, when the billionaire began to dedicate himself more and more to philanthropy and less to the world of technology.
In addition to working with the foundation, in 2015 she opened Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women and families.
“The world is finally waking up to the fact that none of us can move on when half of us are stuck,” she said at the time. “The data is clear: women with power transform societies”.
How did the marriage between Bill and Melinda start?
Born in 1955 in Seattle, entrepreneur Bill Gates made his fortune with Microsoft, a company he created during the revolution in the computer industry in the 1970s and 1980s. Microsoft soon became the largest personal computer software company in the world. world. He’s 65 years old.
Melinda, 56, joined Microsoft as a product manager in 1987, and met Bill when the two sat side by side at a business dinner that year in New York.
They started dating. Commenting on the courtship, Bill said in a 2019 Netflix documentary: “We cared a lot about each other and there were only two possibilities: we were either going to break up or we were going to get married.”
Melinda said that before making the decision to get married, Bill used a whiteboard to write a list of “pros and cons of getting married” —a typical attitude for him, who is known to be extremely methodical.
They were married in 1994 on the Hawaiian island of Lanai. The couple reportedly rented all local helicopters to prevent anyone from flying over the ceremony.
Bill left Microsoft’s board last year to focus on philanthropic activities.