The couple revealed the decision in a terse note to their social media accounts on Monday, in which they said the fate of their marriage would not affect the work of their foundation, the world’s largest private charity.
The couple have invested a large chunk of their estimated $ 124 billion fortune in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which seeks to improve healthcare and reduce poverty around the world. Together with Warren Buffett, they also promoted the Giving Pledge as a way for wealthy entrepreneurs to give more of their wealth over their lifetime.
“After a lot of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the couple said in a statement Monday. The couple said they “will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe that we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
In a separate statement, the foundation said the couple “will remain co-chairs and directors” and “no changes in their roles or in the organization are planned.”
Forbes puts the couple’s wealth at $ 124 billion and ranks Bill Gates as the fourth richest person in the world, after Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla and Bernard Arnault, founder of the Louis Vuitton conglomerate.
The split comes two years after Bezos’ divorce from MacKenzie Scott, which raised questions about the fate of the Amazon founder’s large voting stake in his tech company.
Gates’ split, on the other hand, is likely to have little impact on Microsoft given that Bill Gates, 65, stepped down from the company’s board a year ago and has a roughly 1% stake.
Over the past two decades, the couple have run the world’s largest private charitable foundation, which has distributed $ 55 billion since its launch in 2000. Its endowment, which includes Buffett’s annual donations, stands at $ 49. $ 8 billion.
The Seattle-based Gates Foundation has established itself as one of the most influential philanthropies in the world, with a focus on tackling poverty, disease and inequalities that stretch from sub-Saharan Africa to the center – American city.
Melinda, 56, has long been known as the most powerful woman in philanthropy, focusing her work on the rights of women and girls, from family planning to maternal health. She also founded an investment company called Pivotal Ventures in 2015 to support groups promising to advance social progress.
Their work in health and development has also made them influential figures in financing vaccine development and in the debate on tackling climate change, with Bill recently publishing a book titled How to avoid a climate catastrophe.
The couple met in 1987, shortly after Melinda joined Microsoft. In a 2019 Netflix documentary, Melinda recalled how she found Bill compiling a list of pros and cons of marriage on a whiteboard before proposing.
She is widely considered to have played an influential role in leading him to focus full-time on philanthropy, at a time when her aggressive business tactics had put the company on a collision course with the US Department of Justice. He then took more of a secondary role in running Microsoft, before gradually severing ties altogether and shifting his focus back to philanthropy.
Depending on the terms of any divorce settlement, Melinda Gates could immediately compete with Scott, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes at $ 60 billion, for his influence in the world of full-fledged philanthropy.
Scott – who took on her middle name as a new last name – became the third richest woman in the world after her divorce from Bezos and quickly signed the Giving Pledge, a pledge to cede the majority of her wealth. She has since remarried.
As part of the settlement, considered the most important of its kind, Bezos was able to retain all of his previous voting rights on Amazon. Its 12% post-settlement share was worth around $ 107 billion.
Additional reporting by Dave Lee in San Francisco