Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world, announced on Monday that he and his wife Melinda Gates will be filing for divorce. The couple was married for 27 years and share three children together: Jennifer, 25, Phoebe, 18, and Rory, 21.
Gates, 65, whose net worth is an estimated $130.5 billion in 2021, announced their separation with a joint statement on Twitter. Melinda Gates, 56, posted the same message on her Instagram page without a caption and not before disabling the comments section.
While the founders of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation asked “for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life,” users online wondered if the billionaires signed a prenuptial agreement before they tied the knot in 1994.
Details of a prenuptial agreement are typically kept private, but according to a 1997 New York Times article, the Gates’ did obtain one before marriage.
However, in the divorce documents obtained by TMZ on May 3, there is no mention of a prenuptial agreement and Melinda Gates is not asking for spousal support. The reason for their split? “This marriage is irretrievably broken,” the divorce papers state.
Under Section 11 entitled “Written Agreements,” the divorce papers state they have a “separation contract pursuant to RCW 26.09.070,” which details how the couple will split their assets and property.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation holds assets worth almost $47 billion. They live in a $127 million mansion in Medina, Washington.
Bill & Melinda Gates First Met in 1987
In Netflix’s three-part documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, which premiered in 2019, the Microsoft co-founder told the director Davis Guggenheim that he got lucky with love, as reported by CNBC. The couple first met in 1987 when Melinda Gates worked at Microsoft as a product manager and happened to sit next to him at a dinner in New York City.
At first, things were casual. “She had other boyfriends, and I had Microsoft,” Bill says in the docuseries. “We were like, ‘Hey we are not really serious about each other, are we? We are not going to demand each other’s time.'”
Melinda admits she was enjoying her time as a single woman. “I was new to Microsoft, there were a lot of men there and… you are still looking around.” A year later, “Sort of to our surprise, certainly my surprise, we said, ‘Hey, I love you.’” Gates says. “And she said she loved me and then it was like, ‘Wow, and now what is going to happen?’”
“You know, we cared a lot for each other and there were only two possibilities: either, we were going to break up or we were going to get married,” Gates said.
Melinda Gates, who authored the 2019 book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Woman Changes the World, recalls in the documentary, ″He had to make a decision,” so she walked into his bedroom where he had listed on “his whiteboard had the pros and the cons of getting married” – a memory which caused her to burst out laughing. While this was obviously a funny moment for Melinda Gates, “I took the idea of marriage very seriously,” Gates says.
Melinda says that Gates “wanted to be married, but he didn’t know whether he could actually commit to it and [run] Microsoft.”
After a year of dating, Gates, at age 38, and Melinda Gates, at age 29, tied the knot in Lanai, Hawaii.
The Gates’ Children Will Only Inherit $10 Million Each
While the Gates’ have earned billions of dollars, they wanted to raise their children as normally as possible. While most rich people’s kids inherit the bulk of their parents’ wealth, Bill and Melinda Gates revealed that each of their children will only inherit “a minuscule portion” — $10 million each.
“We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing,” Gates said during a TED talk.