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Bill and Melinda Gates announce divorce after 27 years of marriage

Josie Ensor
·3-min read
Bill and Melinda Gates released a statement on Twitter announcing their separation - AP
Bill and Melinda Gates released a statement on Twitter announcing their separation - AP

Bill and Melinda Gates, one of the world's most powerful couples, announced on Monday they were divorcing after nearly 30 years of marriage, saying they could no longer “grow together”.

Mr Gates, the 65-year-old co-founder of Microsoft, posted a statement on Twitter revealing that he and wife Melinda made the decision after a “great deal of thought and work” and that they were entering the “next phase” of their lives.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” it read.

“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.

“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue to work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

The couple's separation leaves their foundation in doubt - REUTERS
The couple's separation leaves their foundation in doubt - REUTERS

The divorce of the famously charitable couple is likely to send shock waves through the worlds of philanthropy, public health and business.

Their separation also leaves questions over the fate of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - the world’s largest charitable organisation - which has donated tens of billions of dollars since it was formed in 2000.

In the last year alone, the Gates Foundation made a contribution of $250 million to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and has focused on the development and distribution of vaccines around the world.

It could also become one of the most expensive in history. Mr Gates is the fourth wealthiest man in the world and together the couple is worth an estimated $127 billion.

Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, split his $150billion fortune with his wife MacKenzie in 2019 after he was revealed to be having an affair with Lauren Sanchez.

The couple said the next phase of their lives would be spent separately - PA
The couple said the next phase of their lives would be spent separately - PA

Bill and Melinda, 56, began dating in 1987 after meeting at a New York trade show. Mr Gates had founded Microsoft 12 years earlier and was already worth several billion dollars.

When Bill, who is known to book out his day in five-minute slots, initially asked her out, inquiring if they could go out “two weeks from tonight", Melinda responded: “That’s not spontaneous enough for me.”

Melinda, a Texas-born daughter of an aerospace engineer and a housewife. went on to work at Microsoft as a project manager before she was appointed as General Manager of Information Products in the early 1990s.

They married in a small and intimate wedding in Hawaii in 1994 and Melinda left Microsoft two years later to concentrate on starting a family.

The couple have three children; Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe, 18, each of whom is reportedly set to inherit just $10 million each with the rest going to charity.

Melinda had said in interviews that the secret to their marriage was that she and Bill equally divided the running of their household.

However, she wrote in her memoir The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World of the challenges their marriage faced. She talked candidly about her loneliness after the birth of first child Jennifer, with Bill working all hours of the day.

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“Great wealth can be very confusing,” she wrote. “The way that I can keep myself best grounded is to, um, live out the family life that I want to live.”

Both halves of the couple have consistently been ranked as one of the world's most powerful men and women by Forbes magazine.

The couple led an early 21st-century vaccination campaign which significantly contributed to the eradication of the wild polio virus in Africa.

Mr Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board last year to focus on combatting the virus. He also sold the majority of his stake in Microsoft, retaining just over 1 per cent of shares.