© Reuters. Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a press conference as the foundation partners with the Japan Sports Agency and Tokyo 2020 to promote the Sustainable Development Goals related to the Tokyo Olympics
By Eric M. Johnson and Alexandra Ulmer
SEATTLE (Reuters) – Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates have decided to divorce after 27 years of marriage, the couple said on Monday in a joint announcement that rocked the philanthropic world.
“After much thought and work on our relationship, we made the decision to end our marriage,” the two said in a statement posted on the co-founder Bill Gates’ Twitter account Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ :).
“We no longer believe that we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our life. We ask for space and privacy for our families when we begin to find our way in this new life,” she said.
Financial details of the decision were not immediately clear. The couple have three children.
The two are listed as co-chairs and trustees of their nonprofit, Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, founded in 2000. The foundation ended 2019 with a net worth of $ 43.3 billion on its website.
From 1994 to 2018, Bill Gates, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, donated more than $ 36 billion in gifts to the foundation, the website said.
The foundation has turned its attention to public health, education and climate change. Donations range from helping vaccine manufacturers to diagnostic tests and potential medical treatments for the coronavirus pandemic to developing solar-powered toilets.
The Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the group would be run after the Gates split.
The split comes two years after Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ 🙂 founder Jeff Bezos said he and his then-wife MacKenzie were divorcing.
Gates left Harvard University to start Microsoft in 1975 with schoolmate Paul Allen. Gates owned 49% of Microsoft when he went public in 1986, making him an instant multimillionaire. With Microsoft’s explosive growth, he soon became one of the richest people in the world.
After a tenure as an executive that turned the company into one of the world’s leading technology companies, Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 and left the company’s board of directors in March 2020.
Known in the technology industry as a vicious and ruthless competitor, Gates drew the wrath of rivals, and ultimately the US government, at 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 closed the case out of court.
Gates’ public role became an avuncular senior statesman when he turned his attention to philanthropy, and he has largely stayed away from the many controversies that are currently plaguing the tech business.
Gates’ wife, who recently referred to herself on most websites and social media as Melinda French Gates, grew up in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University. She later moved to Microsoft, where she met her future husband.
In 2015, she founded Pivotal Ventures, a women-focused investment firm, and in 2019 published the book “The Moment of Lift,” which focuses on empowering women.