File image: Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft (center), and Melinda (left) in Dhaka, Bangladesh as part of their work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Image: AP Photo/Gazi Sarwar, File)
Bill and Melinda Gates announced on May 3 that they were getting divorced. However, the couple said that they would continue to work together at their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organisations in the world.
Microsoft co-founder Bill and his wife Melinda said in identical tweets that they had made the decision to end their marriage of 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,” they said in a statement. “We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
Bill Gates was formerly the world’s richest person and his fortune is estimated at well over $100 billion.
Questions immediately sprang up about how the couple would settle their estate and if it would have any impact on the Gates foundation. The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the one of the most influential private foundations in the world, with an endowment worth nearly $50 billion.
It has focused on global health and development and United States education issues.
“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives,” Bill and Melinda said in a joint statement.
This sparked comparison with another high-profile Seattle-area billionaire couple who ended their marriage in recent years and how it changed their philanthropic initiatives.
Another billionaire couple divorce
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos finalized their divorce in 2019. In March, MacKenzie Scott remarried Seattle science teacher Dan Jewett and now focuses on her own philanthropy. She had received a 4 percent stake in Amazon, worth more than $36 billion.
After donating $1.6 billion to 116 non-profits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations in July 2020, Scott reportedly asked advisers to help her “accelerate” her previous year’s giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Scott went on to donate a total of $5.7 billion in 2020 by asking community leaders to help identify 512 organizations for seven- and eight-figure gifts, including food banks, human-service organizations and racial-justice charities.
Bezos donated $10 billion to launch the Bezos Earth Fund.
(With inputs from the Associated Press)