SEATTLE Billionaires charities Bill and Melinda Gates have decided to seek a divorce after 27 years of marriage, the couple said Monday in a joint statement that shook the philanthropic world.
“After much thought and hard work in our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the two said in a statement posted on the Twitter account of Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft Corp. .
“We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives. We seek space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life,” their statement said.
The financial details of the decision were not immediately clear. The couple has three children.
Both are listed as co-chairs and managers of their nonprofit funds, the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which launched in 2000. The foundation ended 2019 with a net worth of $ 43.3 billion, according to the final full-year finances discovered on its website.
From 1994 to 2018, Bill Gates, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, provided more than $ 36 billion in donations to the foundation, the website said.
The foundation has focused its attention on public health, education and climate change, with donations ranging from the support of vaccine manufacturers, diagnostic tests and possible medical treatments for the coronavirus pandemic to the development of solar-powered toilets.
The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the group would be run after Gates split.
The split comes two years after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said he and his then-wife, MacKenzie, were divorcing.
Gates retired from Harvard University to start Microsoft with school peer Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49% of Microsoft in his initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multimillionaire. With the explosive growth of Microsoft, he quickly became one of the richest individuals in the world.
After an executive tenure in which he helped transform the company into one of the world’s leading tech firms, Gates stepped down as Microsoft CEO in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 and left the company board in March 2020.
Known in the tech industry as an acrimonious and ruthless competition, Gates drew the wrath of rivals and eventually the US government for Microsoft business practices.
The software giant was convicted of antitrust violations in the late 1990s but the decision was overturned on appeal and the company subsequently settled the case out of court.
Gates’s public character softened into an avuncularly elderly statesman as he turned his attention to philanthropy, and he largely shunned the much controversy that is currently running the tech business.
Gates’ wife, who recently started calling herself Melinda French Gates on most websites and social media, grew up in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University. She later joined Microsoft, where she met her future husband.
In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures, a women-focused investment company, and in 2019 published a book, “The Moment of Rise,” focusing on women’s empowerment.
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