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.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) May 3, 2021
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 is the world’s fourth-richest person with a net worth of $130.5 billion, according to Forbes.
Gates dropped out of Harvard University to co-found technology giant Microsoft with school friend Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49% of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multi-millionaire.
With Microsoft’s explosive growth, he soon became the world’s richest person. He has since lost that title, partly by donating money to philanthropic causes. He was also overtaken due to growth at other companies. Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk and Louis Vuitton boss Bernard Arnault and his family take the three top spots on the Forbes wealth list, with Gates at No. 4.
The couple, who have three children, have a custom mansion with a 2020 assessed value of $130.8 million, according to the King County Department of Assessments, on Lake Washington, which lies between Seattle and its eastside suburbs including Redmond, where Microsoft is headquartered.
The financial details of their split remain unclear. They are seeking division of joint assets, according to a separation agreement they have reached, filed in King County Superior Court.
As one of the few US states with so-called “community property” laws, Washington presumes that most property acquired over the course of a marriage belongs jointly to the spouses and is divided equally in a divorce.