Bill and Melinda Gates have announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage, saying “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple”.
The announcement from one of the world’s wealthiest couples, with an estimated net worth of some $130 billion, was made on Twitter.
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the pair tweeted.
“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,” they wrote.
“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.”
They first met in the 1980s when Melinda joined Bill’s Microsoft firm.
The billionaire couple have three children and jointly run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The organisation has spent billions fighting causes such as infectious diseases and encouraging vaccinations in children.
The Gates – along with investor Warren Buffett – are behind the Giving Pledge, which calls on billionaires to commit to giving away the majority of their wealth to good causes.
Bill Gates is the fourth wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes, and is worth $124bn (£89bn).
He made his money through the firm he co-founded in the 1970s, Microsoft, the world’s biggest software company.
The announcement comes two years after the divorce of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, another of the world’s wealthiest people, and his wife MacKenzie.
Bill Gates meets Melinda at Microsoft
Bill Gates, 65, was a geeky teenager when he started what would become the world’s most valuable company, and was for a time the world’s richest man and most prominent philanthropist.
He stepped down as Microsoft chief executive in 2008 to devote more time to philanthropy and later left the board, keeping only the title of “founder and technology advisor.”
Melinda Gates, 56, met Bill at Microsoft in 1987, shortly after she joined the tech firm, and the pair married in 1994.
In a 2019 Netflix documentary series, he described his wife as “truly an equal partner,” while she looked back on some of their first interactions to call him “funny and very high-energy.”
Their foundation is among the world’s richest, having provided more than $54 billion in grants over two decades in areas including malaria and infectious disease control, agricultural research, basic health care and sanitation in various parts of the world. It has an endowment of more than $46 billion.
The couple’s divorce could create new questions about their wealth, most of which has yet to be donated to their foundation, despite co-creating the Giving Pledge, which encourages billionaires to give the majority of their wealth to charity.
In recent years, Bill Gates has largely distanced himself from Microsoft and the tech industry, instead speaking about poverty and health initiatives, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, the foundation pledged some $250 million to help fight the pandemic, with some of the funds channeled to the distribution of life-saving doses of Covid-19 vaccines to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Gates, who had been warning as early as 2015 about the potential dangers of a global pandemic, became the target of conspiracy theorists who claimed he knew in advance about Covid-19.
The split comes following the high-profile divorce of Bezos, whose ex-wife took the name MacKenzie Scott and promptly began giving away billions to various causes without setting up a conventional foundation.