Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, announced Monday that they are parting ways after nearly three decades 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 said in a statement. “Over the last 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.”
The couple, two of the richest people on the planet, added that despite the divorce, they “continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue to work together at the foundation.” “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 next life,” they added.
While the financial details of the Gates’ split are not yet known, the former Microsoft CEO is worth more than $130 billion as of January, and he still owns about 1.37 percent of the software company’s outstanding shares, making him the second richest person in the world.
For the last two decades, the couple has run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together, focusing on extreme poverty and improving educational opportunities around the globe. The foundation has over $51 billion in assets, according to a recent tax filing. In December, the couple pledged to make a $250 million contribution to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, Gates announced he was leaving Microsoft’s board to “dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change.”
The pair met at Microsoft—where Melinda was once an executive managing over 1,000 people—and were married on New Years Day in 1994 in Hawaii. Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 alongside Paul Allen, who died in 2018, and remained CEO until 2000.
The pair famously decided to get married after weighing the pros and cons of their potential nuptials on a blackboard.
“‘When he was having trouble making the decision about getting married, he was incredibly clear that it was not about me, it was about, ‘Can I get the balance right between work and family life?”’ she said.
In a 2019 interview with Business Insider, Melinda said a key component of their marriage was maintaining a balanced partnership—whether it be taking care of their three kids or running their foundation. She added that the pair wash the dishes together every night.
“There are still things we do in our home that I wanted to make sure we did as parents and that our kids participated in so they would know what it was to grow up and have responsibilities. One example is we always do the dishes together after dinner as a family. One night I realized I was still in the kitchen a good 10, 15 minutes after everybody else doing the last-minute things. Sometimes in the moment my frustration or anger just comes out,” Melinda said.
In another interview with the Sunday Times, Melinda Gates admitted that being married to the tech titan could be “incredibly hard.”
“We’ve just gotten to a point in life where Bill and I can both laugh about more things. And, believe me, I can remember some days that were so incredibly hard in our marriage where you thought, ‘Can I do this?’” she told the newspaper.
The Gates are the latest of several billionaire couples to announce divorces, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife, MacKenzie, who finalized their split after 25 years in 2019. The divorce, which was finalized in June, left MacKenzie with a four percent stake in Amazon—or around $38 billion, making her the third richest woman in the world.
In April, Russian oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov was ordered to pay his ex-wife $557 million after their long-running divorce battle.