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Bill and Melinda Gates announce divorce but charitable foundation to remain intact

The Microsoft co-founder and his wife Melinda say they will continue to work together at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest charitable foundation.

Bill and Melinda Gates

Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of one of the world’s largest private charitable foundations, filed for divorce on Monday after 27 years of marriage but pledged to continue their philanthropic work together.

The announcement came in identical tweets that stated they were ending their 27-year marriage.

They said they “no longer believe” that they can grow as a couple. The American business magnate is the third-richest man in the world.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health, spending 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.

In a joint petition for dissolution of marriage, the couple asserted their legal union was “irretrievably broken,” but said they had reached an agreement on how to divide their marital assets. No details of that accord were disclosed in the filing in King County Superior Court in Seattle.

Background

Bill Gates, 65, who co-founded Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), and his spouse, Melinda French Gates, 56, met after she joined the software giant as a product manager, and 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,” they said.

The divorce petition, which states that the couple has no minor children, comes after the youngest of their three offspring recently turned 18.

What this means for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Launched in 2000, the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks as the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one of the world’s biggest, with net assets of $43.3 billion at the end of 2019, according to the latest full-year financials shown on its website.

Despite the end of their marriage, Gates said they would continue to collaborate on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together.”

The foundation now has over $50 billion (€41.4 billion) in assets, according to a tax filing cited by US broadcaster CNBC.

Since its launch in 2000, the charity has focused on global health and development issues as well as education in the US.

The Gateses have also invested vast sums of money in the search for a coronavirus vaccine and have donated to COVID-19 treatment research.

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