The news has sent shockwaves across the world as America’s most charitable power couple Bill and Melinda Gates have announced their divorce.
The Microsoft founder, 65, and his wife, 56, announced the news on Twitter last night, explaining that the marriage was “irretrievably broken” and that they “no longer believe [they] can grow together as a couple.”
The billionaries have been married for 27 years and raised three children together while accumulating an extraordinary wealth of $130 billion, allowing them to establish the world’s largest charitable foundation and commit to giving at least half of their wealth to charity through the Giving Pledge.
Bill Gates is currently the fourth richest man in the world and the separation could be record-breaking.
The reason behind their divorce after 27 years remains a mystery but Melinda has previously suggested that Bill Gates was facing trouble in balancing work and family.
The announcement of divorce left everyone surprised as it comes less than two weeks after Bill and Melinda Gates made their last public appearance, virtually, at a COVID event.
It is to be noted that Bill was already a billionaire when he tied the knot with Melinda in the early 1990s. Bill Gates founded Microsoft together with Paul Allen in 1975 and became the world’s youngest billionaire in 1987 when he was just 31. Bill Gates met Melinda in 1987 when she was employed at the company where he served as CEO. Bill and Melinda decided to marry in 1993. The billionaire couple tied the knot on New Year’s Day in 1994 in Hawaii. They have three children.
So what do we know about their marriage behind closed doors and what went wrong to bring their 27-year relationship to an end? From their shared childhood interests to raising three children as one of the world’s richest couples, here’s how their love story played out.
A well-programmed power pairing
They were both born into privilege, but Bill and Melinda Gates have always maintained they share two values from childhood: to give back and to be optimistic about the future, according to their website. “From early childhood, we each saw how our parents helped out in our local communities, and we were taught that anything is possible,” they explain in their biography at gatesfoundation.org.
Bill was already destined for stardom by the time he met his future wife. He became the world’s youngest billionaire in 1987 at the age of 31, serving as Microsoft’s CEO, while Melinda worked for the company in its product department.
Their meet-cute took place at a business dinner in New York in 1987. “I showed up late, and all the tables were filled except one, which still had two empty chairs side by side,” Melinda wrote in her 2019 memoir, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World. “I sat in one of them. A few minutes later, Bill arrived and sat in the other.” According to Melinda, she and Bill “talked over dinner that evening” and she could “sense he was interested”.
A few days later, they bumped into each other in Microsoft’s parking lot and he asked her out. “He struck up a conversation and asked me out for two weeks from Friday,” she wrote in the book. “I laughed and said: ‘That’s not spontaneous enough for me. Ask me out closer to the date,’ and gave him my number.” Bill reportedly phoned Melinda two hours later, proposing dinner that evening.
The couple have since spoken about how they bonded over a shared love of puzzles and maths games. “We found we had a lot in common. We both love puzzles, and we both love to compete,” Melinda wrote in the book. “I think he got intrigued when I beat him at a math game and won the first time we played Clue, the board game where you figure out who did the murder in what room with what weapon. He urged me to read The Great Gatsby, his favorite novel, and I already had, twice.
Love in lockdown
The majority of the couple’s public expressions for the last 14 months have centred around global vaccine efforts, but recent interviews and social media posts suggested their marriage was still a happy one. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner on this journey,” Bill posted on Instagram on Valentine’s Day in 2020, a month after his wife publicly wished him a happy 26th wedding anniversary.
“I’m still marveling at just how full a heart can get,” she wrote alongside an Instagram photo of her and her husband dancing hand-in-hand. “Happy anniversary to the man who keeps me dancing through life.
Since then, social media posts picturing the couple together have tailed off, but they have continued to do joint interviews throughout the pandemic. They reportedly spent lockdown at their $125 million home in Seattle with their youngest daughter Phoebe, and Melinda – a longtime advocate of men and women being equal partners – told The Sunday Times in January she believed the secret to a happy marriage was balance.
News of their divorce was announced last night when the couple saying they “no longer believe [they] can grow together as a couple”, with social media users speculating whether domestic duties or lockdown pressures could have been a cause.
Their eldest daughter Jennifer has spoken of it being “a challenging stretch of time for our whole family” and needing space to “process” hers and her family’s emotions, and the couple have confirmed they will continue to work together at the foundation. The two birds still stand together facing the same horizon. But from now on, it appears they will be standing a little further apart.