Bill and Melinda Gates, one of America’s most powerful couples, announced on Monday they would be divorcing after nearly 30 years of marriage, saying they could no longer “grow together”.
Mr Gates, the 65-year-old founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s wealthiest men, posted a statement on Twitter revealing that he and wife Melinda made the decision after a “great deal of thought and work” and that they were entering the “next phase” of their lives.
‘After a great deal of thought and a lot of work, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” it read. “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 to work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
The divorce of the famously philanthropic couple is likely to send shock waves through the worlds of philanthropy, public health and business.
It could become one of the most expensive in history. Mr Gates is the fourth wealthiest man in the world and together they are worth an estimated $127 billion.
Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, split his $150billion fortune with his wife MacKenzie in 2019 after he was revealed to be having an affair with Lauren Sanchez.
Bill and Melinda, 56, began dating in 1987 after meeting at a New York trade show. Mr Gates had founded Microsoft 12 years earlier and was already worth several billion dollars.
When Bill, who is known to book out his day in five-minute slots, initially asked her out, he inquired if they could go out “two weeks from tonight.” Melinda responded: “That’s not spontaneous enough for me.”
Melinda went on to work at Microsoft as a project manager before she was appointed as General Manager of Information Products in the early 1990s.
They married in a small and intimate wedding in Hawaii in 1994 and Melinda left Microsoft two years later to concentrate on starting a family.
The couple have three children; Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe, 18, each of whom is set to inherit $10 million and the rest will go to charity, Mr Gates has previously revealed.
Melinda had said in interviews that the secret to their marriage was that she and Bill equally divided the running of their household.
Their separation also leaves questions over the fate of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation – the world’s largest charitable organisation – which has donated tens of billions of dollars since it was formed in 2000.
In the last year alone, the Gates Foundation made a contribution of $250 million to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He later stepped down from Microsoft’s board to focus on combatting the virus.
Over the last year, their foundation – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – has focused on the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
The couple led an early 21st century vaccination campaign which significantly contributed to the eradication of the wild poliovirus in Africa. Both halves of the couple have consistently been ranked as one of the world’s most powerful men and women by Forbes magazine.
“A sad day for the family and an earthquake in the world of philanthropy and policy,” tweeted New york Times columnist Andrew Sorkin.
Mr Gates has sold the majority of his stake in Microsoft, retaining just over 1 per cent of shares.
More to follow