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Bill Gates and Melinda Gates divorce: Everything to know about the foundation and billions at stake

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates divorce: Everything to know about the foundation and billions at stake


Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced after 27 years and three children.

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Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, two of the world’s most powerful and well-funded philanthropists, said in early May that they’re ending their marriage. For the past two decades, the pair has pushed for causes ranging from education to global health through their namesake foundation. The couple, along with billionaire investor Warren Buffett, also founded The Giving Pledge, a campaign encouraging wealthy people to give away the bulk of their money.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the Microsoft co-founder shared on May 3 on Twitter. “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.”

The divorce came as a surprise to many in the tech and giving worlds, where the Gates name is well known. The two won’t just be splitting their vast fortune, last estimated at around $124 billion. The divorce also potentially throws the future of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation into question, despite its roughly $50 billion endowment.

Here’s everything we know so far:


Melinda and Bill Gates in Washington, DC, in 2002. Bill was Microsoft’s chairman at the time, helping fight an antitrust case that threatened the future of his company.

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Bill Gates and Melinda Gates have been married for 27 years

They met at Microsoft, where Bill Gates was a co-founder and CEO and where he made his fortune. Melinda Gates started at Microsoft as a marketing manager for multimedia products, like the Encarta multimedia encyclopedia and the famously failed Microsoft Bob software. She began dating Bill in 1987 and they married in 1994. They have three children and live in a mansion overlooking Lake Washington.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began in 2000, and has since become the world’s largest private charitable organization

Melinda Gates also began Pivotal Ventures, an investment firm outside the foundation, in 2015. It’s focused on supporting women and families in the US.

They haven’t shared why they’re divorcing

When the pair announced their divorce, they said, “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives.” That’s certainly vague. The petition for divorce filed by Melinda Gates, posted by Yahoo Finance, said, “This marriage is irretrievably broken.”

Jennifer Gates, the couple’s oldest daughter, shared a statement via Instagram Stories that reads, in part: “It’s been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family. I’m still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as family members at this time.”  


Bill Gates in 2000, shortly after establishing the foundation.

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There was no pre-nup

Perhaps more shocking than the divorce itself was that the billionaire couple didn’t have a prenuptial agreement. By the time they were married in 1994, Gates was already the richest person in the US, with more than $9 billion in assets according to Forbes at the time. 

Melinda’s divorce petition reportedly said the couple has a “separation contract,” and she’s asked the court “to dissolve our marriage and find that our marital community ended on the date stated in our separation contract.”

Money is already moving

The same day the pair announced their divorce, Bill Gates transferred $1.8 billion in stock to Melinda Gates

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing from May 3, an investment firm controlled by Bill Gates, called Cascade Investment, transferred more than $1.8 billion in stock to Melinda Gates. The transfer includes more than 14 million shares of Canadian National Railway Co., which are worth around $1.5 billion, and approximately 2.9 million shares of AutoNation, worth are worth about $309 million, Bloomberg reported.  

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates say they’ll still work at the foundation

In their announcement, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates said they “will continue our work together at the foundation.” In a statement, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said the pair would continue to shape the organization’s strategies, champion its causes and set its direction. Bill Gates is 65. Melinda Gates is 56.

The pair had been working hard during the pandemic


Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II presented Bill Gates with an honorary knighthood in 2005. Bill still couldn’t use the title Sir, since he’s not a British citizen. 

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a strong focus on public health, something Melinda Gates discussed in her bookThe Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. It’s committed $1.75 billion so far to support the global response to COVID-19, according to a public report on its site. More than $680 million is to help slow transmission and support responses in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Unfortunately, Bill Gates’ already high profile and the money he’s brought with him to fight COVID-19 has led to a series of bogus conspiracy theories about how he’s attempting to use vaccines to control the population. And it’s not a small number of people. Last year, surveys found that conspiracy theories about Gates were the most widespread about coronavirus in the early months of the pandemic. He also criticized then-President Donald Trump’s administration in a column published March 31, 2020, saying “there’s no question the United States missed the opportunity to get ahead of the novel coronavirus.”

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