Bill Gates and Melinda Gates said on Monday that they have decided to divorce, unnerving the philanthropic world.
Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates have decided to seek a divorce following 27 years of marriage, the couple said on Monday in a joint announcement that rocked the philanthropic world.
"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the two said in a statement posted on the Twitter account of Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft Corp.
"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," their statement said.
Financial details of the decision were not immediately clear. The couple have three children.
The two are listed as co-chairs and trustees of their nonprofit, Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was launched in 2000. The foundation ended 2019 with net assets of $43.3 billion, according to the latest full-year financials disclosed on its website.
From 1994 through 2018, Bill Gates, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, have provided gifts of more than $36 billion to the foundation, the website said.
The foundation has focused its attention on public health, education and climate changes, with donations ranging from support of the makers of vaccines, diagnostic tests and potential medical treatments for the coronavirus pandemic to the development of solar-powered toilets.
The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the group would be run following the Gates' separation.
The split comes two years after Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos said that he and his then-wife, MacKenzie, were getting divorced.
Gates dropped out of Harvard University to start up Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49 per cent of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multimillionaire. With Microsoft's explosive growth, he soon became one of the world's wealthiest individuals.
After an executive tenure in which he helped transform the company into one of the world's leading technology firms, Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 and left the company's board in March 2020.
Known in the technology industry as an acerbic and ruthless competitor, Gates drew the ire of rivals and eventually the US government for Microsoft's business practices.
The software giant was convicted of antitrust violations in the late 1990s but the verdict was overturned on appeal, and the company then settled the case out of court.
Gates' public persona softened into an avuncular elder statesman as he turned his attention to philanthropy, and he has largely steered clear of the many controversies currently roiling the technology business.
Gates' spouse, who recently began referring to herself as Melinda French Gates on most websites and social media, was raised in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University. She later joined Microsoft, where she met her future husband.
In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women, and in 2019 published a book, "The Moment of Lift", centred on female empowerment.