Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates on Monday announced that they were getting divorced. The duo said that they would continue to work together at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest private charitable foundation.
In identical tweets, they said 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," they added. Bill Gates was formerly the world's richest person and his fortune is estimated at well over $100 billion.
How the couple ends up settling their estate and any impact on the foundation will be closely watched, especially after another high-profile Seattle-area billionaire couple recently ended their marriage.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos finalised their divorce in 2019. MacKenzie Scott has since remarried and now focuses on her own philanthropy after receiving a 4% stake in Amazon, worth more than $36 billion.
Bill and Melinda Gates were married in 1994 in Hawaii. They met after she began working at Microsoft as a product manager in 1987. In her 2019 memoir, "The Moment of Lift", Melinda Gates wrote about her childhood, life and private struggles as the wife of a public icon and stay-at-home mom with three kids.
The couple met at a work dinner, sharing a mutual love of puzzles and she beat him at a math game, the memoir recalled.
The sprawling Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the most influential private foundation in the world, with an endowment worth nearly $50 billion. It has focused on global health and development and US education issues since incorporating in 2000.
As the public face of the foundation's COVID-19 grants and advocacy work, Bill Gates has come under fire for being a staunch supporter of intellectual property rights for vaccine makers. While the tech icon says protecting the shots' recipes will ensure incentives for research and development, critics claim that mentality hampers supply in favor of drug company profits.
Last year, Bill Gates said he was stepping down from Microsoft's board to focus on philanthropy. He was Microsoft's CEO until 2000 and since then has gradually scaled back his involvement in the company he started with Paul Allen in 1975. He transitioned out of a day-to-day role in Microsoft in 2008 and served as chairman of the board until 2014.