The couple’s separation is likely to send shock waves through the worlds of philanthropy, public health and business.
Bill and Melinda Gates, two of the richest people in the world, who reshaped philanthropy and public health with the fortune Mr. Gates made as a co-founder of Microsoft, said on Monday that they were divorcing.
For decades, Mr. and Ms. Gates have been singular forces on the world stage, their vast wealth affording them access to the highest levels of government, business and the nonprofit sector. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with an endowment of some $50 billion, has vast influence in fields ranging from global health to early childhood education. And over the past year, the couple has been especially visible, regularly commenting on the worldwide fight against Covid-19 as their foundation spent more than $1 billion to combat the pandemic.
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” Mr. and Ms. Gates said in a statement that was posted to Twitter.
Mr. and Ms. Gates went on to say that they had “built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives” but that they “no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
The divorce will create new questions about the fate of the Gates fortune, much of which has not yet been donated to the Gates Foundation. Mr. Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world, worth an estimated $124 billion, according to Forbes.
Last year, Mr. Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board of directors, as well as from the board of Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run by his close friend Warren Buffett.
Mr. Buffett has donated billions of dollars to the Gates Foundation over the years, and has pledged to leave the majority of his fortune to the foundation when he dies. In 2010, Mr. Buffett and the Gateses created the Giving Pledge, an effort to get wealthy individuals to commit to donate a majority of their money to charitable causes.
Their separation follows the divorce of Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, and his longtime wife, MacKenzie Scott. (NYT)