AGENCIES | RedPepper – Bill and Melinda Gates publically announced their divorce resolution on Monday, May 3, 2021, after 27 years of marriage.
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the two said in a statement posted on Twitter. “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 couple’s resolution puts one of the world’s greatest fortunes -the ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,’ at stake, currently valued at $145.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index yet the largest philanthropic operations. The Foundation has given away more than $50 billion, contributing to the fight against Covid-19, leading the charge on climate change and advocating for women’s rights.
Bill Gates, 65, Microsoft Corp. co-founder is the world’s 4th richest person. Melinda Gates, 56, is a former Microsoft manager and an advocate for global health and equality for women.
As the divorce scenario alters the rankings of the world’s wealthiest people, the couple is hopeful that this will have little impact on their philanthropic ideology.
“Bill and Melinda will remain co-chairs and trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, No changes to their roles or the organization are planned. They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction.”
This follows the 2019 separation announcement of Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott bombshell divorce among the uppermost ranks of the world’s richest people in recent years.
Bill Gates’s net worth originated with Microsoft but shares of the software-maker now probably make up less than 20% of his assets. He’s shifted much of his stake into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the years and his exact stake hasn’t been disclosed since he left Microsoft’s board last year.
Bill Gates’s biggest asset is Cascade Investment, a holding company. Gates has interests in real estate, energy and hospitality as well as stakes in dozens of public companies, including Canadian National Railway and Deere & Co.
Monica Mazzei, a divorce attorney, and a partner at Sideman & Bancroft LLP in San Francisco, said the big question concerning the couple’s foundation and the family office is to what extent they plan on working together going forward.
“Even in the most amicable divorces I’ve seen, the preference has been to split the foundation in two so that there’s more autonomy and less intermingling,” she noted. This also applies to the family business, where the investments could be divvied up into two.
The Gates family lives in Washington, which is a community property state. The two met in New York in the 1980s, early into Melinda’s time at Microsoft.
Its believed that philanthropism is attributed to their relationship and marriage. Before their wedding in Hawaii, Bill’s mother, Mary, who usually convinced him to increase his charity, gave Melinda a letter with a quote, “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” Mary Gates died several months later.
Hence during the couple’s trip to Africa, they decided they would become serious philanthropists.
“We fell in love with everything we saw but it’s really not at all trite to say that we really fell in love with the people,” Melinda said back then at Salesforce, 2016.
That’s when they concluded “the vast majority of resources from Microsoft would go back to society,” Melinda said. “It was an easy discussion. We just thought it would be later in our lives when we got to do it.”