Billionaire Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp., and Melinda Gates, his wife of 27 years, are getting divorced, the couple announced Monday.
In a joint statement posted at their respective Twitter accounts, the pair said the breakup comes after reaching a mutual decision that they could no longer “grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the couple said.
Bill and Melinda Gates established a private philanthropic foundation bearing their names in 2000 which has concentrated on funding health research, much of it in the world’s poorest nations.
“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,” the statement read.
Bill Gates is the fourth-wealthiest person in the world, according to a tally by Forbes Magazine, which lists his net worth at $124 billion, thanks in part to Microsoft stock.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, led by CEO Mark Suzman, is under the direction of the couple and fellow billionaire Warren Buffet. It has 1,600 employees and a trust endowment of nearly $50 billion.
The Gateses were married in 1994 in Hawaii. They met after she began working at Microsoft as a product manager in 1987.
In her 2019 memoir, “The Moment of Lift,” Melinda Gates wrote about her childhood, life and private struggles as the wife of a public icon and stay-at-home mom with three kids. She won Bill Gates’ heart after meeting at a work dinner, sharing a mutual love of puzzles and beating him at a math game.
She also detailed the ways they navigated imbalances in their marriage and parenting journey and noted how working together at the foundation made their relationship better.
“Bill and I are equal partners,” Melinda Gates said in a 2019 interview. “Men and women should be equal at work.”
The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the most influential private foundation in the world, with an endowment worth nearly $50 billion. It has focused on global health and development and U.S. education issues since incorporating in 2000.
While both are global figures, Melinda Gates has increasingly built her profile as a champion of women and girls. The former tech business executive launched her private Pivotal Ventures investment and incubation company in 2015 and recently partnered with Scott for a newly announced equity challenge.
David Callahan, founder of the Insider Philanthropy website and author of “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age” says it’s too early to know how the divorce will affect the Gates foundation and the wider philanthropic community.
Although the couple say they will continue to work together at their foundation, Callahan suggests Melinda Gates could still pursue her own philanthropic work.
“You can imagine two separate tracks where they’re both working together at the foundation, and each is pursuing their own independent philanthropy outside the foundation,” Callahan said.
He said the possibility of Melinda Gates opening another philanthropic foundation would have a dramatic impact.
“Nobody knows what the terms are of their divorce agreement. But if Melinda Gates ends up with just some portion of that wealth and turns to creating her own foundation, it would be among one of the biggest foundations probably in America,” Callahan said.