businessPhilanthropy

Bill and Melinda Gates announce their divorce on Twitter to their 57 million followers

Melinda Gates is a Dallas native who was The Dallas Morning News’ Texan of the Year in 2020.

Bill and Melinda Gates took to Twitter Monday afternoon to announce the end of their 27-year marriage.

Combined, the couple has over 57 million followers on the social media platform. They rank among the world’s wealthiest people, and their namesake foundation is widely understood to be the largest private philanthropic undertaking in history.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” said the joint statement that both tweeted from their individual accounts. “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.

“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.”

Bill Gates, 65, is the world’s fourth-richest person, with a net worth valued by Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index at $145.8 billion. Melinda Gates, 56, is a former Microsoft manager who’s become an outspoken advocate on global health and equality for women in her role co-running the foundation.

The couple’s philanthropy has always been deeply rooted in their relationship and marriage — the day before they wed in Hawaii, Bill’s mother, Mary, who had been trying to convince him to dramatically increase his charity, gave Melinda a letter that closed with the words “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” Mary Gates passed away several months later.

The Dallas Morning News recognized Melinda Gates earlier this year as its Texan of the Year for 2020 for her work on COVID-19, fighting poverty and empowering women. She’s a Dallas native and graduate of Ursuline Academy.

Since its establishment in 2000, the couple’s foundation has provided more than $54 billion in grants to help protect people from infectious disease, to build gender equality, to improve farm yields, to train teachers, to create effective curricula, to, well, the list becomes too long to list, The News reported at the time.

Last year, with Melinda Gates’ personal approval, the foundation shifted its focus and poured $1.75 billion and many of its human resources into the fight against COVID-19, The News reported.

In a 2018 interview with The News, Melinda Gates said she had been reticent about making her personal journey the center of attention but now felt comfortable as a role model for women. She said she considers it her humanitarian duty to fight for gender equality here and abroad.

It’s the second bombshell split among the uppermost ranks of the world’s richest people in recent years, following the 2019 separation announcement of Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott. The Gateses’ wealth could prove more complex to carve up than the Bezos fortune, which was largely concentrated in Amazon.com Inc. stock.

Bill Gates’ net worth originated with Microsoft, but shares of the software-maker now probably make up less than 20% of his assets. He has shifted much of his stake into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the years, and his exact stake hasn’t been disclosed since he left Microsoft’s board last year.

Gates’ biggest asset is Cascade Investments, a holding company he created with the proceeds of Microsoft stock sales and dividends that is 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 tractor-maker Deere & Co.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

Melinda and Bill Gates in 1993.
Melinda and Bill Gates in 1993. (Courtesy Gates Archives)

Paul O'Donnell, Business Editor. Paul directs the work of an award-winning staff covering business news in the nation's fourth largest metro region. He's been The News' business editor since 2015. Before that, he was editor-in-chief at the Dallas Business Journal and business editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

podonnell@dallasnews.com @paul_o_donnell LinkedIn Iconhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-o-donnell-a476948/
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