Bill and Melinda Gates file for divorce after 27 years

Couple say marriage is 'irretrievably broken' but have reached financial agreement

Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of one of the world’s largest private charitable foundations, have filed for divorce after 27 years of marriage.

"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the pair tweeted.

"We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life," they said.

They first met in the 1980s when Melinda joined Bill's Microsoft firm as a product manager. They have three children and together run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has become one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health.

The Gates have backed programmes in malaria and polio eradication, child nutrition and vaccines. The foundation last year committed roughly $1.75bn (£1.2bn, €1.4bn) to COVID-19 relief.

In a joint petition for dissolution of marriage, the couple said their marriage was "irretrievably broken", but 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.

Launched in 2000, the non-profit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private philanthropic foundation in the US, with net assets of $43.3bn at the end of 2019, according to the latest full-year financials shown on its website.

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From 1994 through 2018 the couple gifted more than $36bn to the Seattle-based foundation, the website said.

Last year, investor Warren Buffett reported donating more than $2bn of stock from his Berkshire Hathaway Inc to the Gates Foundation as part of previously announced plans to give away his entire fortune before his death.

In their divorce petition, according to Reuters, the couple asks the court "to dissolve our marriage" and to divide their communal property, business interests and liabilities "as set forth in our separation contract".

Bill Gates is the fourth wealthiest person in the world according to Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $124bn, behind Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault and Tesla’s Elon Musk.

In a separate statement, the Gates Foundation said the couple would remain as co-chairs and trustees of the organisation.

Microsoft shares closed at $251.86, down 0.13%.

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