After a 27-year marriage, Bill and Melinda Gates have announced the end of their marital relationship. Their professional relationship as heads of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation will, however, endure.
“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 said in a Tweeted statement. “We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
The Gates’ met back in 1987 at a work dinner after Melinda had started working for Microsoft as a product manager. After bonding over their mutual love of puzzles, Bill lost a math game to his future wife; they were married during 1994 in Hawaii.
Melinda Gates had previously written in her memoir “The Moment of Lift,” about her life growing up, and her struggles and imbalances navigating a marriage as the wife of a public icon, and a stay-at-home mother with three children. She did say, however, that their work in the foundation had strengthened their relationship more than anything.
It is currently unknown what the impact of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce could have on the foundation. As is the case with high-profile billionaires, however, the ripple effect that this could have will extend beyond just their immediate family, and so the events will be closely watched.
The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is the largest most influential private foundation in the world with an endowment worth around $50 billion, and so the effects that this divorce may have is everyone’s business to the degree where the founders’ personal lives and privacy is respected.
Today, as a global figure in her own right, Melinda has increasingly been building her own profile as a major advocate for women and girls, launching her own company, Pivotal Ventures investment and incubation company back in 2015, and recently partnered with MacKenzie Scott, in a $40 million gender equality initiative.
David Callahan, founder of the Insider Philanthropy website and author of “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age,” says that it may be too early to say for sure what the impact of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce will be and how it will translate to the thousands that benefit from it.
“You can imagine two separate tracks where they’re both working together at the foundation, and each is pursuing their own independent philanthropy outside the foundation,” said Callahan.
Bill Gates has been under fire for his support of vaccine intellectual property, taking the side of the argument that this would incentivize better quality research and development, while critics on the other side insist that this approach instead hampers the equal supply of vaccines in favor of drug company profits.
Last year, Bill said he would step down from Microsoft’s board to shift his focus more towards philanthropy after gradually scaling back his involvement over the years.