Billionaire benefactors Bill Gates and Melinda Gates are co-founders of one of the world’s largest private charitable foundations, the couple filed for divorce on Monday after 27 years of marriage. But they pledged to continue their philanthropic work together.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health. It spent more than $50 billion over the past two decades to bring a business approach to combating poverty and disease.
The Gates have backed widely praised programs in malaria and polio eradication, child nutrition, and vaccines. The foundation last year committed some $1.75 billion to COVID-19 relief.
Bill Gates, 65 co-founded Microsoft Corp. His spouse, Melinda French Gates, 56, met him after she joined the software giant as a product manager. They dated for a few years before marrying in January 1994 in Hawaii.
“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 joint statement posted on each of their individual Twitter accounts.
“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,” Bill Gates and Melinda said confirmimg their divorce.
Bill Gates is ranked No. 4 on the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, with an estimated $124 billion fortune.
In a separate statement, the Gates Foundation said the couple would remain as co-chairs and trustees of the organization.
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Gates dropped out of Harvard University to start Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49% 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.
Gates later 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. 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.
Melinda French Gates was raised in Dallas. She studied computer science and economics at Duke University before joining Microsoft.
In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women and families, and in 2019 published a book, “The Moment of Lift”, centered on female empowerment.
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