Bill and Melinda Gates, two of the richest people in the world who were reshaping philanthropy and public health with the fortune made by Mr. Gates as co-founder of Microsoft, said Monday they were divorcing.
For decades, Mr. and Mrs. Gates have been unique forces on the world stage. Their enormous wealth gives them access to the highest levels of government, business, and the non-profit sector. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with approximately $ 50 billion in endowment, has a major impact in areas ranging from global health to early childhood education. And last year, the couple were particularly visible, regularly commenting on the global battle against Covid-19, when their foundation spent more than $ 1 billion fighting the pandemic.
“After much thought and work on our relationship, we made the decision to end our marriage,” said Mr. and Mrs. Gates in a statement posted on Twitter.
Mr. and Mrs. Gates went on to say that they “built a foundation that works around the world to help all people live healthy and productive lives,” but that they “no longer believe that we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our life. “
The divorce will raise new questions about the fate of Gates’ fortune, much of which have not yet been donated to the Gates Foundation. Mr. Forbes, co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world, according to Forbes, with an estimated value of $ 124 billion. The Gateses have been married for 27 years and have three children.
“The Gates Foundation is now the most important and influential philanthropic entity in the world,” said Rob Reich, professor of political science at Stanford University. “With the Gates Foundation being a family trust and the Gateses breaking up their family, divorce can have a huge impact on the foundation and its work around the world.”
In business today
May 3, 2021, 3:53 p.m. ET
With 1,600 employees in offices around the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awards approximately $ 5 billion annually in areas such as global public health and development. The foundation used their expertise and relationships to play a key role in formulating the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, investing early in vaccine candidates, and Covax, the global initiative to organize the purchase of vaccines for 92 poor countries and dozens of other nations to help shape.
“Bill and Melinda Gates pioneered it as it is today,” said David Callahan, founder of Inside Philanthropy. “Everything was oversized.”
Last year, Mr. Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board of directors and from the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate of his close friend Warren Buffett.
Mr. Buffett has donated billions of dollars to the Gates Foundation over the years and has pledged to leave most of his fortune to the foundation when he dies. In 2010, Mr. Buffett and the Gateses formed the Giving Pledge to encourage wealthy individuals to pledge to donate a majority of their money to charity.
Mr. and Mrs. Gates have had relationship problems in recent years, said two people close to them. There have been multiple times when the relationship was nearing breakdown, but they worked to keep it together, people said. Mr Gates decided to partially step down from the boards of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway to spend more time with his family, these people said.
“When he struggled to make the decision to get married, it was incredibly clear to him that it wasn’t about me, but about ‘Can I strike the right balance between work and family?'” Ms. Gates said in an interview in 2019 in the Sunday Times of London. “And believe me, I can remember a few days that were so incredibly difficult in our marriage when you thought, ‘Can I do this?'”
Nicholas Kulish contributed to the coverage.
This is a developing story. Check for updates again.
Comments are closed.