Everything We Know About Bill And Melinda Gates' Divorce

News of Bill and Melinda Gates' decision to divorce has shocked many across the globe. The philanthropic couple, married for 27 years, announced the end of their marriage in a statement via Twitter. Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill was the one to tweet out the statement late on the afternoon of May 3, 2021. The truly vigilant might have picked up on signs of a rift before the divorce announcement. As Reuters points out, Melinda added her maiden name, "French," to websites and social media accounts tied to her.

"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the statement read. "Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world ... but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life." The news of their divorce has, of course, sparked intrigue into the couple's amassed financial state. According to Forbes, Bill is worth $124 billion and with it started the "world's largest private charitable foundation." 

A former Gates Foundation employee told The New York Times that news of the divorce shook the foundation, as staff sent out a flurry of emails and texts. Many of the organization's 1,600 staff members wondered, in the long term, what future strategy and plan meetings might look like in the divorce's aftermath.   

Bill and Melinda Gates have had a very eventful marriage

Bill and Melinda Gates first met in 1987 at a Microsoft dinner conference for employees. In an interview with Salesforce, Melinda recalled arriving at the dinner at the urging of her roommate. She took the second to last empty seat in the room, with Bill shuffling in and sitting beside her 15 minutes later. "I could sense that he was interested. It took him quite a few months before he asked me out," she said.

The two were married in 1994 in Hawaii (per CNBC). They share three children: 25-year-old Katharine, 21-year-old Rory, 18-year-old Phoebe (per People). In 2000, the couple founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and in the two decades since, the organization has spent $53.8 billion on various philanthropic pursuits in the areas of the environment, global health, and more — Bill has also been a prominent voice in the political arena, weighing in on Donald Trump to the coronavirus vaccination efforts. 

The divorce may, thus far, be amicable, but both staff and media are worried about how it will affect the organizations that Bill and Melinda work with, jointly. As per what author and journalist Anand Giridharadas told Reuters, "The Gates divorce will do more than upend a family's life. It will ramify into the worlds of business, education, public health, civil society, philanthropy, and beyond." Meanwhile, documents obtained by ABC News suggest that it was Melinda Gates who originally filed the divorce petition. 

Details from Bill and Melinda Gates' court filing revealed

As per ABC News, Bill and Melinda Gates' petition for divorce reads that "this marriage is irretrievably broken." Of the six lawyers that the former couple has hired for the proceedings, Robert Cohen is one of the attorneys representing Melinda Gates. Cohen, according to ABC, represented Michael Bloomberg, Uma Thurman, and Ivana Trump on their divorce proceedings. While TMZ reports that the couple did not have a prenup, Bill and Melinda have already come to an agreement about how to split their assets (via Reuters). No further details about the agreement have been revealed, to date. 

In the immediate aftermath of the news, The Gates Foundation has attempted to calm fears of what the couple's divorce might mean for its future. "[Bill and Melinda Gates] will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation's issues, and set the organization's overall direction," a statement it released read (via Reuters). Internally, too, Gates Foundation Chief Executive Mark Suzman sent a message to employees to quell fears (via The New York Times). "While this is obviously a difficult time of personal change for our co-chairs, together they have assured me of their continued commitment to the foundation that they have worked so hard to build together over the past 20 years," he wrote in an email. Suzman also notified employees that there might be "some short-term adjustments" to Bill and Melinda Gates' schedules as divorce proceedings move forward.