Bill and Melinda Gates, one of the world’s richest couples with a fortune of $130billion, are getting divorced – with Melinda saying the marriage is ‘irretrievably broken’ in divorce filings that also reveal the couple have no prenup agreement.
Bill, 64, and Melinda, 56, met in 1987 – the same year he became the world’s youngest billionaire at the age of 31 – married in Hawaii in 1994, and have three children together: Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe 18.
They also established the world’s largest charitable foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in 2000 which has contributed more than $50billion to causes including eradicating polio and malaria. The foundation has also been a major investor in coronavirus treatments.
In a joint statement posted to their Twitter accounts on Monday, the pair said their work with the foundation will continue but their marriage will not, adding: ‘We no longer feel we are able to grow as a couple in this next phase of our lives.’
While the couple have no prenup, it appears a lot of the work of dividing up their estate – which includes properties in five states, a private jet, an astonishing art collection and a fleet of luxury cars – has already been done, as their divorce papers repeatedly refer to a ‘separation contract’ which both have signed. The contract itself has not been made public.
The documents, which were filed by Melinda and obtained by DailyMail.com, came to light after the couple’s eldest daughter revealed their family has been going through a ‘challenging stretch of time’.
Jennifer Gates, 25, spoke out about the divorce announcement on Instagram on Monday afternoon, writing: ‘I’m still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as my family members at this time and am grateful for the space to do so.’
Jennifer is the oldest of Bill and Melinda’s three children, followed by 21-year-old son Rory and 18-year-old daughter Phoebe.
Bill and Melinda both posted the same joint statement about their divorce on Twitter, which read: ‘After a great deal of thought and a lot of work, we have made the decision to end our marriage.
‘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. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.’
Bill was already a billionaire he married Melinda in the early 1990s. He founded Microsoft in 1975 and became the world’s youngest billionaire in 1987 at the age of 31. He also met Melinda that year when she was working at the company where he served as CEO.
They married six years later but he deliberated over it and, according to previous interviews given by Melinda, even made a list of pros and cons for marriage on a whiteboard.
The reason behind their split after over a quarter-century remains a mystery but Melinda has previously suggested her husband had trouble balancing work and family.
In the divorce petition, which was filed in Superior Court of Washington – King County on Monday, Melinda asked the judge to dissolved the marriage ‘on the date stated in our separation contract’. The separation contract was not included in the filing so that date is unclear.
In the absence of the pre-nuptial agreement, the only agreement pertaining to the divorce is the separation contract.
Melinda did not ask for any spousal support but requested a trial date in April 2022. However it is likely the divorce will be settled without a trial.
The petition states that finances pertaining to the couple’s two children are addressed in the separation contract. The document was signed by both Bill and Melinda, as well as their attorneys.
Both Bill and Melinda hired powerhouse law firms to assist in the divorce. Melinda is represented by a team of four New York based attorneys from two separate firms: Cohen Clair Lane Griefer Thorpe & Rottenstreich LLP and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
Bill is represented by three Los Angeles-based attorneys from Munger Tolles & Olson. One of the attorneys, Charles T Munger, is a longtime partner of Bill’s billionaire friend Warren Buffett.
The Gates’ divorce, though one of the most expensive in history, is not the most expensive.
That title goes to Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder who split his $150billion fortune with his wife MacKenzie in 2019 after his affair with Lauren Sanchez was revealed.
They, unlike Bezos, are both part of The Giving Pledge – a collection of the world’s richest people who have all vowed to devote at least half of their fortunes to charity.
In 2000 they founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – the most influential private foundation in the worth with an endowment work nearly $50billion.
In their statement on Monday, the Gates vowed to continue that work together after their split.
The couple met in 1987 when Melinda was working at Microsoft as a project manager and was seated next to Gates at a business dinner.
Melinda described the meeting in her 2019 biography The Moment of Lift, writing: ‘I showed up late, and all the tables were filled except one, which still had two empty chairs side by side. I sat in one of them. A few minutes later, Bill arrived and sat in the other.’
After a year of dating, Bill made a list of the pros and cons of getting married.
‘You know, we cared a lot for each other and there were only two possibilities: either, we were going to break up or we were going to get married,’ Bill said in a Netflix documentary about his life.
She has playfully told how he made a pros and cons lift of whether or not they should get married on a whiteboard. They eventually tied the knot on a golf course on the Hawaiian island of Lanai in 1994, and welcomed their first child together, Jennifer, in 1996.
In 2019, shortly after their 25th wedding anniversary, Melinda gave a rare interview to The Sunday Times in which she revealed how Bill struggled to balance work with family.
‘We’ve just gotten to a point in life where Bill and I can both laugh about more things.
‘And, believe me, I can remember some days that were so incredibly hard in our marriage where you thought, “Can I do this?”‘ she said.
In her memoir published that same year Melinda wrote about her private struggles as the wife of a public icon and stay-at-home mom with three kids. -DailyMail