Melinda Gates, a philanthropist and campaigner for the empowerment of women, could become the second richest woman in the world with an estimated net worth of $ 73 billion.
In her petition for divorce, filed Monday in King County’s Supreme Court in Seattle, Washington, Melinda Gates stated that her marriage to multibillionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, was “irretrievably broken.” and called on the courts to split the couple’s combined assets of $ 146 billion (£ 105 billion)
The 50-50 split is likely because the divorce petition filing also indicates that the couple – who married in 1994 after first playing Cluedo (she won) – did not sign a prenuptial agreement and under Washington state law from Divorces are expected to divide their property equally.
If that succeeds, Melinda French Gates – who recently introduced her maiden name French to her social media profiles – will only be behind Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, the 67-year-old L’Oreal owner, whose inherited fortune is now worth about $ 83 is, billions
According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, Bill Gates is currently the fourth richest person in the world with a fortune of around $ 146 billion. However, he would be a lot richer – and perhaps still the richest person in the world – if he hadn’t already donated at least $ 40 billion to the couple’s charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The divorce also questions the future of the couple’s philanthropic endeavors through the foundation, which also raises money from other donors, from fellow countryman Warren Buffett to the UK government. While the couple have announced they will remain co-chairs of the foundation, some experts suspect the divorcing couple may have different and strongly held views about the future direction of the charity.
It’s a huge Seattle-based foundation with 1,600 employees that has donated $ 50 billion to projects in 135 countries since its inception in 2000 and still has $ 43 billion in assets.
It focuses on projects to improve global health care, education and gender equality with big ambitions – with the aim of completely eradicating some diseases like polio. It also provides support in the event of natural disasters. Last year, the foundation allocated $ 1.8 billion for emergency medical supplies against coronavirus, PPE and vaccines. Another $ 2 billion is earmarked to try to eradicate malaria within a generation and $ 1.6 billion to help students of color in the United States. The Guardian’s Global Development website is supported by the Foundation.
Rob Reich, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, said, “With the Gates Foundation being a family trust and the Gateses breaking up their family, divorce can have a huge impact on the Foundation and its work around the world.”
The couple’s astounding personal fortunes include the $ 130 million US $ 130 million main home overlooking Lake Washington and a number of vacation homes including a 43 million-acre ranch in Wyoming.
In addition to the real estate portfolio, the couple owns several private jets and a fleet of vehicles, including a rare $ 2 million Porsche 959 and an electric Porsche Taycan. Their main home in Medina, across Lake Washington from Seattle, has garages for up to 23 cars.
Their main house, known as Xanadu 2.0 after the huge fictional estate owned by Charles Foster Kane in the 1941 film Citizen Kane, was built from 500 Douglas firs and has no fewer than six kitchens.
There’s also a pool house with a 60-foot pool with an underwater sound system, while a trampoline room is available for those who want to exercise without getting wet.
In the main building there is a 2,100 m² library with a domed roof. There is an engraved quote from The Great Gatsby on the ceiling. The library is home to the Codex Leicester, a 16th century Leonardo da Vinci manuscript that Gates bought for $ 31 million in 1994.
A 2,300 m² ballroom can accommodate up to 150 people for a formal dinner or 200 people for a cocktail party.
The couple are also among the largest privately owned farmland owners in the United States, with approximately 242,000 acres in 18 different states valued at approximately $ 700 million. For comparison: the land holdings are almost as big as Hong Kong.
Washington State is one of the few US states with community property laws that assume that most property acquired during a marriage should be shared between the spouses and shared equally. The couple are due to appear in court in April 2022.
The gates split shortly after Jeff Bezos, the Amazon boss and the richest person in the world, parted ways with his 25-year-old wife MacKenzie Scott. Her divorce in 2019 – also in Washington state – made Scott the fourth richest woman in the world, with a fortune of $ 38 billion. Her net worth, mostly held in Amazon stocks, has since risen to $ 60 billion.
French Gates and Scott worked together last year to launch a $ 30 million project called Equality Can’t Wait Challenge to expand the influence of women in the United States.
Described by Forbes magazine as “the most powerful woman” in philanthropy, Melinda also founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation firm focused on women, family and social advancement.
In 2019, she published a book, The Moment of Lift, on the importance of empowering women. Of her husband in the book, she said, “He had to learn to be equals, and I had to learn to perform and be equals.”
In an interview to promote the book, she said: “Bill and I are equal partners. Men and women should be equal at work. “
The couple have three children: Jennifer, 25; Rory, 21; and Phoebe, 18. Jennifer Gates wrote on Instagram saying it was “a challenging time for our whole family.”
The Gates Foundation said the couple will remain co-chairs and trustees of the organization, which has been a driving force in improving health care, early childhood education and promoting vaccination around the world. “They will continue to work together to develop and adopt foundation strategies, advocate the cause of the foundation, and set the overall direction of the organization,” the foundation said.