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Mega-divorce: Bill Gates & Melinda’s marriage collapses; $146 bn at stake

Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: After Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos’ high-profile divorce with wife MacKenzie Scott in 2019, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is also divorcing his wife Melinda—despite their marital foundation collapsing, however, they will continue to lead the Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation with nearly USD 50 billion in assets.

They announced on Monday that they were divorcing after 27 years of marriage. At stake is their assets worth about USD 146 billion.

“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 statement posted on Twitter. “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.”

At stake is one of the world’s greatest fortunes — currently valued at $145.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — and one of the largest philanthropy operations in the world. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given away more than USD 50 billion, contributing to the fight against Covid-19, leading the charge on climate change, and advocating for women’s rights, among other philanthropic activities.

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, 65, is the world’s fourth-richest person. Melinda Gates, 56, is a former Microsoft manager who became an outspoken advocate on global health and equality for women in her role co-running the foundation.

“Bill and Melinda will remain co-chairs and trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” a spokesperson for the foundation said.

“No changes to their roles or the organization are planned. They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction.”

In 2019, Jeff Bezos had split with his wife MacKenzie Scott, which divided their stake in Amazon.com Inc. It immediately made MacKenzie one of the world’s richest people, as she became one of the most influential philanthropists in the world, giving away billions of dollars to causes often overlooked among billionaire donors.

The Gates’ wealth could, however, prove more complex to carve up than the Bezos’ fortune, which was largely concentrated in Amazon stock.

Bill Gates’s net worth originated with Microsoft but shares of the software-maker now probably make up less than 20% of his assets. He’s shifted much of his stake into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the years and his exact stake remains undisclosed since he left Microsoft’s board last year, according to media reports.

Gates’ biggest asset is Cascade Investment, a holding company he created with the proceeds of Microsoft stock sales and dividends that are run by Michael Larson. Through Cascade, Gates has interests in real estate, energy, and hospitality as well as stakes in dozens of public companies, including Canadian National Railway and Deere & Co.