Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are getting divorced after 27 years of marriage.
The couple who preside over the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a global health and development charity, announced their split on Twitter and said they would continue to work together at the foundation.
“After much thought and work on our relationship, we made the decision to end our marriage,” they said in a joint statement everyone posted on their Twitter feed. “Over the past 27 years we have raised three amazing children and started a foundation that works around the world to help all people live healthy and productive lives. We continue to share the belief in this mission and will work together on ours however, no longer believe that we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our families as we begin to find our way in this new life. “
The couple’s split is likely to surprise many who know the couple as philanthropists.
“I think we’re all surprised in some ways. Many of us look up to Bill and Melinda Gates, especially in this COVID era,” said Leslie Barbara, chair of the legal and divorce and family law group at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron in New York .
Marriages that end after 25 to 35 years are called “gray divorces, just like hair color,” said Marilyn Chinitz, A partner at Blank Rome LLP in New York who specializes in complex adultery.
Chinitz can’t tell if the gates made an agreement before or after the wedding. Either way, she said, they won’t suffer financially.
“Sometimes the person you once knew and loved changes,” said Chinitz. “Sometimes people fall out of love and it’s clear they did. Despite their wealth, they’re no different from anyone else. They looked at each other and said, ‘It’s time to move on.’ Money doesn’t change that. “
The couple met in 1987 after Melinda became a product manager at Microsoft and sat next to each other at a business lunch in New York City. They got married in Hawaii in 1994.
In a 2019 Netflix documentary titled “Inside Bill’s Brain,” Melinda laughed at the memory of finding a whiteboard in Bill’s bedroom that listed “the pros and cons of getting married.” CNBC reported.
Melinda Gates spent a decade developing multimedia products at Microsoft before focusing on her family and philanthropy, according to the Gates Foundation website. The couple have three children: Jenn, Rory and Phoebe.
In 2015, Melinda, 56 Pivotal Ventures, an investment and an incubator to solve problems facing women and families. Her book, “The Elevator Moment: How Women’s Empowerment Changes the World” was released in 2019.
in the a 2019 USA TODAY editorialIt has closed the persistent gender gap. “Based on data from its widely recognized Global Gender Gap Index, the WEF estimates that it will take the United States another 208 years to achieve gender equality. You read that right. At the current pace of change, gender equality will not enter.” the US by 2227. “
Founded in 1994, the Gates Foundation employs more than 1,600 people and has made more than $ 54.8 billion in grant payments, according to the foundation’s website.
Last year Bill, formerly the richest person in the world, was said he stepped down from Microsoft’s board of directors to focus on philanthropy. He became a prominent spokesperson last year as the coronavirus spread, amid earlier warnings from Gates of a global pandemic.
He expressed his disbelief that a conspiracy theory led him to control the shipment of microchips in COVID-19 vaccination shots to track people.
Technologically it doesn’t make sense, he told USA TODAY in January. Even if it were possible, “Why should I be involved?” he said. “I do not get it.”
Bill was CEO of Microsoft until 2000 and has since gradually scaled back his involvement in the company he founded with Paul Allen in 1975. In 2008 he switched from his daily position at Microsoft and was CEO until 2014.
Bill, 65, is number 4 The Forbes Billionaires List. with $ 124 billion behind Jeff Bezos ($ 177 billion), Elon Musk ($ 157 billion), Bernard Arnault & Family ($ 150 billion) … and ahead of Mark Zuckerberg ($ 97 billion) Dollar).
Barbara, the family law attorney, expects the divorce from Gates to be the same as the divorce from Jeff Bezos and his then-wife MacKenzie in 2019. Bezos’ net worth at the time was $ 160 billion. In their settlement, Bezos kept most of the property and She received an Amazon stake worth more than $ 35 billion.
“They will likely continue to work together rather than buying each other and selling assets,” said Barbara. “It seems more sensible to continue their professional endeavors in a similar manner. But don’t get me wrong, this is getting complicated. Questions of control and the passing of assets to the next generation are likely to arise.” the top of the negotiations. “
The Cascade Investment holding company is Bill Gates’ greatest asset. Bloomberg reported. It has interests in real estate, energy, hospitality, Canadian National Railway, Deere & Co. The Financial Times reported, but Gates donated roughly half to charity.
Bill remains a significant shareholder in Microsoft with a 1.3% stake valued at $ 26 billion, according to S&P Capital IQ.
The couple owns multiple homes, including a mansion nicknamed Xanadu 2.0 in Medina, Washington, overlooking Lake Washington on 66,000 square feet of land previously valued at $ 127 million Business Insider.
Last year, the couple bought the former home of Madeleine Pickens, ex-wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, in Del Mar, California for $ 43 million. The Wall Street Journal reported. They previously bought Jenny Craig’s 299-acre horse farm in Rancho Santa Fe, California, also near San Diego, for $ 18 million.
Regarding how the couples separation affects their creation, Barbara said, “This is bigger than the two. I expect they will do whatever they can to make sure this is preserved so that their legacy continues . “”
The foundation issued a statement to Recode saying there were “no changes” planned for the organization or for the roles of Bill or Melinda Gates. “They will continue to work together to develop and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundations’ problems, and set the general direction of the organization,” the foundation said.
Featuring: Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @ MikeSnider.