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Bill and Melinda Gates to Divorce After Nearly 30-year Marriage

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: May 5, 2021
Bill Gates announced that he and Melinda Gates recently filed for divorce. They visited the Oslo Opera House together back in June 2009, 15 years after they married.
Bill Gates announced that he and Melinda Gates recently filed for divorce. They visited the Oslo Opera House together back in June 2009, 15 years after they married.(Image: Kjetil Ree via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Billionaire Bill Gates has announced that he and his wife Melinda Gates will be divorcing soon, after being married for 27 years. In a joint statement posted to Bill’s Twitter account, the couple stated that they put in a “great deal of thought” and a lot of work into their relationship, but eventually decided to end the marriage.

Gates pointed out that during the course of their relationship, the couple raised three incredible children and established a foundation that helps people across the world to lead productive and healthy lives. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has provided grants totaling $54.8 billion since its inception back in 2000.

“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our 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 Gates posted on Twitter.

The couple first met in 1987 at a New York City sales meeting, after Melinda joined Microsoft as a product manager. They soon discovered that they shared a love of puzzles, and ended up tying the knot seven years later in 1994. Bill was 38 years old at the time, while Melinda was 29. When their first child was born, Melinda decided to be a stay-at-home mom and leave the company, a decision that apparently shocked Bill. The couple’s three children are Phoebe, Rory, and Jennifer, who are 18, 21, and 25 years old.

“But then my view changed over time when I felt like I had created the environment where I could give my kids privacy and let them grow up to be themselves. We had the values, we had people around us who were also imparting those same values that we had. Then I felt, like, ‘OK, I do want to work, and I will be a working mum.’ The one thing I’ll say about Bill is he was incredibly supportive all along the way,” Melinda said in an interview with Business Insider

The fourth richest man in the world, Bill Gates is estimated to have a net worth of more than $130.5 billion. The couple filed a petition to dissolve the marriage in the King County Superior Court in Seattle, and Melinda will not be seeking spousal support according to divorce papers she filed. While the couple did not sign a prenuptial agreement, they have agreed to a separation contract dividing their joint assets.

The couple’s main home in Washington is a 66,000 square foot mansion that is estimated to be worth around $125 million. They own two ranches, one in Wyoming worth $9 million and another in Florida worth $59 million. They also have two homes in California worth $18 million and $43 million.

Although the couple will continue to collaborate through their foundation, David Callahan, editor of Inside Philanthropy, believes that Melinda will also pursue her own philanthropic projects. “There’s no particular reason to think that anything will change with the foundation and its work. It has a large endowment. It has a professional staff of 1,600 people. It has a set of really well-developed programs,” Callahan said to the Los Angeles Times.

“To me, the big question is, does Melinda get a sizable divorce settlement? And if so, what does she do in terms of forging her own path as an independent philanthropist,” he said. Callahan believes that Melinda may focus on projects promoting women’s empowerment, which has been one of the foundation’s top priorities over the past five years.

Callahan pointed out that the Gates foundation usually writes an annual letter signed by Bill Gates. However, Melinda’s name also started appearing in the letters a few years ago, indicating that she had started to play a bigger role in the foundation. 

Preceding the Gates’ divorce, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott separated in 2019. Scott received Amazon stock valued at around $36 billion at the time of the divorce, and donated over $4 billion to charities during a four-month period last year.

Steven Li contributed to this report.