The most expensive family break-up in history | Sunday Observer

The most expensive family break-up in history

17 May, 2021

The most disturbing news that enveloped the world last week was the divorce of multi-billionaire Bill Gates, the founder of the Microsoft software co. The news was announced on Monday the third of May. The divorce comes after 27 years of r married life with three children, ages 18 to 25. Posting a statement to Twitter, Bill Gates (65) and. Melinda Gates (57) said, “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.”

They also said:

“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.

We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but 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 new life.”

Thus, Melinda Gates filed a petition for divorce on Monday the third in the Superior Court in King County, Washington, calling the marriage “irretrievably broken” and asking the court to dissolve it. In her filing, Melinda Gates said they were already separated. She signed the form in Bellevue, Washington, and Bill Gates signed his part in Palm Desert, California, near where they own a home.

Fortune of Gates’s

Since 1987, Bill Gates has been included in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people. From 1995 to 2017, he held the Forbes title of the richest person in the world every year except from 2010 to 2013. In October 2017, he was surpassed by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who had an estimated net worth of US$90.6 billion compared to Gates’s net worth of US$89.9 billion at the time. As of April 2021, Gates had an estimated net worth of US$146.7 billion, making him the third-richest person in the world.

Melinda Gates is also a multi- billionaire. On the day of the divorce announcement she got a $2.4 billion stock transfer according to the Wall Street Journal. Apart from her partnership in the Gates Foundation, she already has her own firm, Pivotal Ventures, which she has used to invest in issues related to women’s economic empowerment.

Gates’s are the largest owners of farmland in America and have vast investments through Cascade Investment, which manages Bill Gates’s personal wealth. The family’s homes in five States and properties include a 66,000-square-foot Washington State mansion, which features amenities such as a trampoline room, a screening room and a multi-room library filled with rare documents and artifacts.


The nearly $55 billion that the Gates Foundation has, was given away to health and poverty-related programs, including efforts to eradicate diseases such as malaria, improve HIV treatment, and reduce tobacco-related deaths. It has also funded education programs in the U.S with varying success. For the moment, the Gates Foundation has $50 billion endowment.

Bill donated $4.1 million in 2009 to an effort to preserve then-New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s control over local schools. Both Gates’s donate as individuals to political candidates and political action committees too.

Melinda Gates pledged in 2019 to spend $1 billion over the next 10 years to advance women and girls in the U.S. That’s a significant sum, given that only 1.6 per cent of total charitable giving goes directly to women and girls’ causes, amounting to $7.1 billion in 2017, according to the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy.

Last year, the couple deployed their connections in response to the pandemic, calling leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi to drum up support for their plans. The foundation has committed $1.75 billion so far to its Covid-19 response, and has played a key role in shaping the global deal to bring vaccines to poor countries.

In this way, the Gates’s are regarded as the ones who changed the direction of philanthropy and public health with the fortune Bill Gates made as a co-founder of Microsoft.

Implications of the divorce

According to early reports, the couple did not have a pre-nuptial agreement, meaning assets will be split 50:50. How much assets would be split up? According to Forbes it is $130bn. In that context, the break-up will probably be the most expensive in history. As the couple has multi-million-dollar mansions in five states, a fleet of luxury cars, private jets and even 242,000 acres of farmland, the final result will not be small scale.

The splitting up of these assets eventually affect global health and other developments too because they are investors in those areas. The Gates Foundation has a total of 1,600 staff, they direct $5 billion in annual grants to 135 countries all over the world, in fields such as global health and early-childhood education, and has made great strides in reducing deaths caused by malaria and other infectious diseases. Thus, the divorce of the couple affects them all.

However, the message from the headquarters of the Gates Foundation in Seattle said, “Bill and Melinda Gates may be splitting up, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation isn’t going anywhere. Their roles as co-chairs and trustees are not changing, and they will still set the agenda for the organisation that bears their names.”

Some analysts say that, the divorce won’t affect the money that has already been given to the foundation trust, but may the couple devote more money than before over time? Or can we believe that they wouldn’t cut or remove the endowment of the Foundation because of the marital issue?

The marriage splitting affects the arts, especially the great paintings which Bill Gates collected over the years. In fact, he has spent heavily on 19th-century American art, by the likes of Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Saul Bellows and William Merritt Chase, and also owns the $30m Leonardo Codex, which takes pride of place in his stunning library—Gates is apparently a voracious reader. According to foreign media, there are no signs that anything will be put up for sale so far, but we can’t be sure about anything, because all depends on future developments.

Reasons behind the divorce

Still the couple hasn’t given any reason for their break-up, but we can guess at some reasons behind it. In a January podcast interview Melinda Gates said:

“I’m deeply uncomfortable with the amount of wealth I have, and I think the majority of it should go back to society.”

It is clear that Melinda was fed up with the heavy workload she had to do. Though she has her own charity foundation Pivotal Ventures, she would have loved to be with her family more than anything else. And we know that Bill is also a workaholic. In March 2020, he announced his intention to step back from the boards of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway. His hope was to spend more time on his work at the global-aid behemoth he and his wife started. But was he able to be with his family and their Foundation? According to foreign media, even within the foundation, the two have developed different interests. Bill focuses on climate change and health while Melinda has been increasingly active in issues affecting women and girls.

And when the Gates’s say that they “no longer believe we can grow together as a couple,’ it implies that there is a lack of hope that harmony, pleasure in togetherness, and emotional intimacy can be restored. Yes, they might have tried to restore their marriage, but have not succeeded.

As of April 2021, Gates had an estimated net worth of US$146.7 billion, making him the third-richest person in the world