- Bill and Melinda Gates met while working at Microsoft and married in 1994.
- The couple, who vowed to give up more than half of their money, will continue to collaborate on charitable endeavours.
- The financial ramifications are not readily apparent.
Bill Gates, co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, and his partner, Melinda French Gates, announced their divorce on Twitter on Monday. The two also continue to collaborate on philanthropic projects addressing education, gender equity, and health care.
“After much thinking and work on our relationship, we have decided to end our marriage,” Bill and Melinda Gates said in a statement that Bill Gates tweeted out.
“Over the last 27 years, we have raised three amazing children and built a foundation that operates all over the world to help all people live safe, meaningful lives. We really believe in the goal and will continue to work together at the base, but we no longer believe we will flourish as a pair together in this next stage of our lives. As we continue to navigate this new life, we request space and privacy for our family.”
The decision represents a personal shift at the highest levels of American industry.
Bill Gates was the CEO of Microsoft from its inception with Paul Allen in 1975 until 2000, when he handed over the reins to Steve Ballmer, who became chairman and chief software architect. In 2008, Gates stepped down from his day-to-day job at Microsoft to devote more time to the nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board of directors last year when the coronavirus became a global power. He started devoting more time to the foundation, working with Melinda Gates. The foundation, which was established in 2000, has two co-chairs and trustees.
Both Bill and Melinda Gates worked for Microsoft. According to her LinkedIn profile, she was a general manager at the software corporation, where she worked on products such as the Encarta encyclopaedia. In 1987, the two met at a dinner for Microsoft staff. Melinda Gates later said, “It took him quite a few months before he asked me out.” Bill Gates had measured the pros and cons on a blackboard, and the pair married in Hawaii in 1994.
The financial aspects of the Gateses’ divorce are still unknown. According to FactSet, Bill Gates holds 1.37 percent of Microsoft’s outstanding stock, which are worth more than $26 billion. Together with Warren Buffett, the pair founded the Giving Pledge, an initiative that allows participants to give away more than half of their money.
At one point, the pair agreed to transfer $20 billion in Microsoft stock to the foundation in order to expand their philanthropic contribution, Bill Gates wrote in a 2019 blog post. According to a tax filing, the fund now has more than $51 billion in cash, making it one of the world’s richest foundations.
“In the case of Melinda, it is a completely fair partner,” Bill Gates said in the Netflix documentary “Inside Bill’s Brain,” which premiered in 2019. “She is ambitious and interested in technology, which is similar to mine. She is more social than I am. She’s a little less adamant about understanding, you know, immunology than I am.”
In 2015, the two started exploring areas of concern. Bill Gates founded Breakthrough Energy, a climate change project with a startup arm, and Melinda Gates founded Pivotal Ventures, an organisation that makes contributions to promote equality.
Bill Gates shared an Instagram shot of himself posing with his arm around Melinda Gates for Valentine’s Day in 2020. “I couldn’t have asked for a better companion on this journey,” the caption said.
For more than a decade, the Gateses have written an annual letter about their foundation’s work. They commented on the effects of the pandemic, beyond promoting vaccine production, in the most recent one, released in January. “The days were a blur of video meetings, distressing news updates, and microwaved meals for us,” they said.
According to Forbes, Bill Gates is the world’s fourth richest male, behind Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, and Tesla’s Elon Musk.
Bezos’ news came two years after he and his partner, MacKenzie, announced their divorce. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are among the world’s wealthiest individuals, and Amazon and Microsoft participate in the cloud computing market. Amazon announced earlier this year that Bezos would step down as CEO and that cloud chief Andy Jassy would replace him.