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Bill and Melinda Gates to divorce, but charitable foundation to remain intact

Stock MarketsMay 03, 2021 11:36PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a news conference as the foundation teams up with the Japan Sports Agency and Tokyo 2020 to promote the Sustainable Development Goals in conjunction with the Olympics, in Tokyo 2/2

By Eric M. Johnson and Alexandra Ulmer

SEATTLE (Reuters) -Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of one of the world's largest private charitable foundations, filed for divorce on Monday after 27 years of marriage but pledged to continue their philanthropic work together.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health, spending more than $50 billion over the past two decades to bring a business approach to combating poverty and disease.

The Gates have backed widely praised programs in malaria and polio eradication, child nutrition and vaccines. The foundation last year committed some $1.75 billion to COVID-19 relief.

In a joint petition for dissolution of marriage, the couple asserted their legal union was "irretrievably broken," but said they had reached agreement on how to divide their marital assets. No details of that accord were disclosed in the filing in King County Superior Court in Seattle.

Bill Gates, 65, who co-founded Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT), and his spouse, Melinda French Gates, 56, met after she joined the software giant as a product manager, and they dated for a few years before marrying in January 1994 in Hawaii.

"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the two said in a joint statement posted on each of their individual Twitter accounts.

"We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life," they said.

The divorce petition, which states that the couple have no minor children, comes after the youngest of their three offspring recently turned 18.

Launched in 2000, the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks as the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one of the world's biggest, with net assets of $43.3 billion at the end of 2019, according to the latest full-year financials shown on its website.

From 1994 through 2018, the couple gifted more than $36 billion to the Seattle-based foundation, the website said.

Last year, investor Warren Buffett reported donating more than $2 billion of stock from his Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKa) Inc to the Gates Foundation as part of previously announced plans to give away his entire fortune before his death.

'NO CHANGES TO THEIR ROLES'

In their divorce petition, the couple asks the court "to dissolve our marriage" and to divide their communal property, business interests and liabilities "as set forth in our separation contract," though that accord was not made public.

Bill Gates is ranked No. 4 on the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest individuals, with an estimated $124 billion fortune.

In a separate statement, the Gates Foundation said the couple would remain as co-chairs and trustees of the organization.

"They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction," the foundation's statement said.

The split comes two years after another leading Seattle-based billionaire and philanthropist, Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos, said that he and his then-wife, MacKenzie, were getting divorced.

At least one critic of billionaire benefactors cited the Gates' split as a cautionary tale in the wisdom of concentrating so much sway over global humanitarian issues under the control of super-wealthy individuals.

"The Gates divorce will do more than upend a family's life. It will ramify into the worlds of business, education, public health, civil society, philanthropy, and beyond," Anand Giridharadas, author of the book "Winners Take All" told Reuters.

"That is because our society has made the colossal error of allowing wealth to purchase the chance to make quasi-governmental decisions as a private citizen," he said.

Gates dropped out of Harvard University to start Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49% of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multimillionaire. With Microsoft's explosive growth, he soon became one of the world's wealthiest individuals.

After an executive tenure in which he helped transform the company into one of the world's leading technology firms, Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 and left the company's board in March 2020.

Known in the technology industry as an acerbic and ruthless competitor, Gates drew the ire of rivals and eventually the U.S. government for Microsoft's business practices.

The software giant was convicted of antitrust violations in the late 1990s. But the verdict was overturned on appeal, and the company then settled the case out of court.

Gates' public persona softened into an avuncular elder statesman as he turned his attention to philanthropy, and he has largely steered clear of the many controversies currently roiling the technology business.

Melinda French Gates, who recently added her maiden name on most of her websites and social media, was raised in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University before joining Microsoft.

In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women and families, and in 2019 published a book, "The Moment of Lift", centered on female empowerment.

Bill and Melinda Gates to divorce, but charitable foundation to remain intact
 

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Comments (49)
Anthony Anthony
Anthony Anthony May 04, 2021 7:36PM ET
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Lesson of the story... Don't get married, unless she makes more than you.
Jo Pa
Jo Pa May 04, 2021 8:40AM ET
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MGTOW saves lives.
Luis Alayo
Luis Alayo May 04, 2021 8:16AM ET
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who cares?
Mike Dee
Mike Dee May 04, 2021 7:05AM ET
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She gets California.
Paul Dunne
Paul Dunne May 04, 2021 5:22AM ET
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Their vows went out the Windows 10. :)
Star Boi
Star Boi May 04, 2021 4:36AM ET
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Obviously, she knew back in 2015 she wanted a divorce. Bill's been a naughty boy. Now she will pivot away from him with her "Pivotal Ventures." Bill will look for a new yacht so he can pull a younger sexual companion who can pivot on his willy wonker and get off on his acerbic wit. I think he needs his sardonical tweaked. :P
dc Gpswill
dc Gpswill May 04, 2021 3:37AM ET
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tyranny
cameron landry
cameron landry May 04, 2021 2:57AM ET
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Bill married Melinda after she joined the company. There is no chance in ********he forced her to sign a prenup. I mean being so charitable and all. i used to be a fan of Steve Jobs and thus anti bill but I have learned to love winners so good luck Mr. Gates. 🙏
Gene Kret
Gene Kret May 04, 2021 2:03AM ET
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Ha ha i hope she drains him big time. ****Bill.
Garal Das
Garal Das May 04, 2021 1:49AM ET
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MARRIAGE  IS  A  BACKDATED  CONCEPT IN TODAY'S  WORLD. ONLY  RELATIONSHIP  MATTERS.
Bima Rendi
Bima Rendi May 04, 2021 1:18AM ET
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unbelievable even though the life of the richest man turns out to have its problems too
Tony Coll
Tony Coll May 04, 2021 1:16AM ET
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Ole Bill will no longer have anything holding him back from world domination. He's now all Brain and no Pinky.
cameron landry
cameron landry May 04, 2021 1:16AM ET
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As a fan of pinky and the brain. Lmfao. Good one
George Jetson
George Jetson May 04, 2021 12:15AM ET
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no more foundation in that relationship 🤣
BOB Blikenchip
BOB Blikenchip May 04, 2021 12:05AM ET
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Mel - is a Man!
Ahmad Bilal Samman
Ahmad Bilal Samman May 03, 2021 11:56PM ET
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Wow..
Dave Jones
Dave Jones May 03, 2021 11:42PM ET
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is this a divorce of convenience?
John Wim
John Wim May 03, 2021 10:46PM ET
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He has his eyes on a 19 year old hot blond.
Andy Huang
Andy Huang May 03, 2021 10:46PM ET
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Boy or girl?
Tushar Ingle
Tushar Ingle May 03, 2021 10:25PM ET
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why do Americans marry in first place? there are no family values there, money and ego are only important thing important things there.
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire May 03, 2021 10:25PM ET
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You dont know any Americans, do you?
Catholic Man
CatholicMan May 03, 2021 10:25PM ET
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Benjamin McIntire Sounds like he only knows democrats.
John Cerniuk
John Cerniuk May 03, 2021 10:20PM ET
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He tried to microchip her too!!
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire May 03, 2021 10:20PM ET
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Wipe the drool off your chin
Catholic Man
CatholicMan May 03, 2021 10:20PM ET
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Benjamin McIntire Like your boyfriend did to you?
Abs Shiv
Abs Shiv May 03, 2021 10:04PM ET
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I am devastated by this news
David David
David9 May 03, 2021 9:59PM ET
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I knew this was coming 20 years ago...
Paul Dunne
Paul Dunne May 03, 2021 9:59PM ET
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Kelly Mayer
Kelly Mayer May 03, 2021 9:45PM ET
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Couplehood is bad for climate change. The anti couplehood agenda starts now.
Clinton Powell
Clinton Powell May 03, 2021 9:27PM ET
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So WHAT!
Rupesh kumar
Rupesh kumar May 03, 2021 8:57PM ET
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karma : just game began....
Rupesh kumar
Rupesh kumar May 03, 2021 8:53PM ET
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just part of game to save some tax ......... or some thing had gone wrong this is merely a part of game , at this age of 60 both can't satisfy their new partner. something is fishy.....
 
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