27 years together: Here’s what Bill and Melinda Gates did for the world and what happens to their charitable foundation after divorce

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Updated: May 04, 2021 2:56 PM

Bill and Melinda had met at Microsoft in 1987 after she joined the firm, and the two had decided to get married in 1994.

The two have not, however, shared any other personal details about the decision. (File image: Rueters)

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates: Microsoft founder Bill Gates and wife Melinda Gates have decided to end their marriage after 27 years. In a joint statement released in the early hours of Tuesday, the two said that they had given a lot of thought and put in a lot of work into their relationship before making this decision. The couple said that while they were together, they raised three children, and built a foundation – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bill and Melinda, in their statement, reiterated that while they believed that they could “no longer grow together as a couple”, they have a continued shared belief in the mission and would continue to work together at the foundation. This indicates that the separation would not affect the working of the foundation, of which both Bill and Melinda are Founders, even as Mark Suzman leads the foundation as CEO.

Here is a look at what the couple achieved in their 27 years of marriage:

In 1994, the William H Gates Foundation was launched, and three years later, in 1997, the couple launched the Gates Library Foundation, which consequently became the Gates Learning Foundation. In 2000, after six years of being married, the couple established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by merging the previous two foundations. Since then, the charitable organisation has been working on programmes in the areas of healthcare, poverty, education and gender equality. It is one of the largest charitable organisations in the world. At the end of 2019, the foundation had net assets to the tune of $43.3 billion, and between 1994 and 2018, the couple put in $36 billion into the foundation, and it currently has an endowment of about $50 billion.

While Melinda was mostly a stay-at-home mother, in a recent memoir, she wrote how working at the foundation became important to her because it taught both her and Bill how to be equals.

So far, the two have together worked on several programmes through the foundation. The grants given by the foundation include $1.75 billion to vaccine initiatives, research as well as diagnostics during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left the world in a state of turmoil since it hit last year.

The couple has three children aged between 18 and 25 years. Bill has assets to the tune of $130.5 billion, according to Forbes, and is the fourth richest person in the world, after slipping from the top position on that list, partly due to his extensive donations and because of the surge of other companies like Amazon and Tesla over time.

Going their separate ways

The two have not, however, shared any other personal details about the decision, including what drove them to decide to go their separate ways. Instead, they asked for space and privacy for the members of the family as they try to figure out how to proceed from here.

The foundation, which has 1,600 staff members globally, has said in a statement that Bill, 65, and Melinda, 56, would continue to act as co-chairs and trustees of the foundation, and it did not expect any changes to take place in the organisation.

It is not known how the division of financial assets would go between the couple, as those details remain undisclosed to the public, but if reports are to be believed, they have some form of a prenuptial agreement which would be followed.

Bill and Melinda had met at Microsoft in 1987 after she joined the firm, and the two had decided to get married in 1994. The tech mogul stepped down from his position as the CEO of the company in 2000, and then as a full-time employee in 2008 to focus better on the working of the foundation, before also stepping down as a member of the company’s board last year, only retaining the title of “Founder and Technology Advisor”.

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