SEATTLE — Bill and Melinda Gates are separating after 27 years of marriage.
The couple released a joint statement announcing their decision Monday, which reads in part:
“After a great deal of thought at a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage. 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.”
The statement ends asking for privacy as they and their family work through the separation.
The couple first met in 1987 at a trade show in New York City. Both worked at Microsoft, Bill as the CEO and Melinda as a marketing manager. They married in 1994. In 1996, Melinda left Microsoft to focus on starting a family. They have three children together, Jenn, Rory, and Phoebe.
Bill stopped handling day-to-day operations at Microsoft in 2008.
It’s not immediately clear what impact, if any, the move will have on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The couple founded the organization together in 2000, which has since become the largest private foundation in the world with a $49.8 billion endowment as of 2019.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation describes itself as a “nonprofit fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world.” It supports a broad range of issues, including agricultural development, global health and global policy. The foundation was also a founding partner of Gavi, a vaccine alliance that ships doses to developing countries across the globe.
The divorce comes at a tumultuous time for their foundation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation has spent hundreds of millions combatting the coronavirus, but has also recently drawn substantial criticism after Bill Gates said COVID-19 vaccine technology should not be shared with poorer or developing countries.
As The New York Times reports, Bill Gates is worth an estimated $124 billion, the bulk of which has not yet been donated to the foundation. If the Gates’ divorce works out similarly to the Bezos’ split in 2019, Melinda Gates could end up one of the richest women on Earth.