Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates announced on Monday that they are parting ways after 27 years of marriage. Their divorce will also have an impact on the fate of America’s largest philanthropic foundation and also there will be a big decision to be taken about a $146 billion fortune.
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“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the Gateses said in a joint statement Monday.
“We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
The world’s fourth richest person, Bill Gates, 65, has been married to Melinda, 56, since the early days of Microsoft and also almost all of his wealth is shared with her.
The case of the Gates couple is very much similar to that of Bezos’ in terms of duration of married life and the amount of money involved and even the location of filing the divorce.
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A main difference, though, is that the Gateses’ fortune is joint in the form of private organizations:
- the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and
- their family office, Cascade Investment.
- In addition to it, Bill Gates also owns a small stake in Microsoft.
“Both of these people have plenty of money to live very nicely the way they have previously. The big question is, what kind of philanthropic endeavors will they do going forward,” Arthur Ettinger, chair of the Matrimonial & Family Law practice group at Greenspoon Marder, told Observer.
Bill and Melinda Gates said they “continue to share a belief” in their philanthropic mission and “will continue our work at the foundation.”
According to the spokesperson of their foundation they (Bill and Melinda) will remain co-chairs and trustees of the foundation, per Bloomberg.
The rest of their fortune will likely be split according to a private settlement.
According to court records, the divorce was filed in King County, Washington on Monday. Melinda is listed as the petitioner and Bill as joining.
According to a copy of the divorce petition posted by TMZ, prenup was not listed in the filing and it included a separation agreement.
The marriage was described as “irretrievably broken” in the petition.
Washington is a “community property” state. In such a state, anything acquired during a marriage is considered to be owned equally by both the partners unless a couple comes up with their own arrangement.
“She is making her own decisions, as we’ve seen, while [the Gateses] will continue making decisions together on how to give away their wealth,” Ettinger said.
In the Bezos’ case, MacKenzie ended up getting about a quarter of the Amazon shares they’d owned together, a stake worth $36 billion at the time of their divorce. She has donated $6 billion to charitable causes since then.
The Gateses have three children together and the youngest one is 18, and therefore custody will not be any issue.
However, the eldest of Gates’ daughters posted on her Instagram Story on Monday, saying that “it’s been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family.”