SEATTLE — Washington’s power couple broke the news on Twitter.
Melinda and Bill Gates are divorcing after 27 years of marriage.
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is worth $133 billion at last check.
The news sent shockwaves around the world because they have given billions of dollars to causes around the world.
Both announced on Twitter Monday, “we have made the decision to end our marriage.”
As for how the incredible amount of assets will be split, divorce documents just filed Monday said the Gates have a separation contract. Those details are not public.
There is no mention of a prenup. But attorney Laurie Robertson says prenup or not, courts in Washington State tend to treat “long term” marriages in a certain way. Robertson is a partner with Washington Family Law Group.
Robertson says after about 22 or 23 years of marriage, the court really starts to weigh the length of the marriage – there is no specific set time frame.
“The courts want to see the parties leave that marriage on as much as possible - equal footing, equal financial footing,” Robertson said. “The court doesn’t want to see either party disadvantaged,” she said.
Those who study philanthropy said there is no reason to think that will stop, but it likely will change.
In the world of philanthropy, no two names have resonated more than Bill and Melinda Gates — or has anyone given more.
The couple, made fabulously wealthy through Bill Gates’ co-founding of Microsoft, pledged to give away half of their wealth.
And along the way, they became experts on a range of topics from poverty to the threat of viruses.
“Well, there will be other emergent viruses that we’ve never seen as a globe,” said Melinda Gates when she spoke last January to CBS’s Gayle King.
They talked a lot about the pandemic, the effort with her now-estranged husband to get vaccines into arms around the world, and the conspiracy theories that advocacy has spawned.
“I certainly heard many of those conspiracy theories; that disinformation causes more death,” said Gates. “It causes people not to do the right things.”
We asked Dr. Elizabeth Dale, an associate professor of nonprofit leadership at Seattle University, to weigh in. She said the couple’s divorce is a tectonic shift because their philanthropy evolved together.
“They’ve been hugely inspirational,” said Dale, “as well as serving as role models for others with their giving.”
But she said the form that giving takes could now change.
“We could end up seeing either another foundation be created. Or maybe, it will continue to work together professionally,” said Dale.
The couple indicated in their tweet that they do plan to continue working together as they have for the nearly three decades they have been married.
Bill and Melinda got married on January 1, 1994, in Lanai, Hawaii. KIRO7 cameras were there to capture this reception dance.