“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” Mr and Mrs Gates wrote in a statement they both posted on Twitter.
The couple has been married for almost three decades, and works together to run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private charity in the world.
“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,” the Gates’ statement continued.
“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 husband and wife did not say whether they planned to divorce or simply separate. On both copies of the Twitter post, the comments were disabled.
“We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said nothing will change in terms of the two professionals’ work.
“Bill and Melinda will remain co-chairs and trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” the Foundation told The Independent on Monday. “No changes to their roles or the organization are planned. They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction.”
Bill and Melinda met in the 1980s at Microsoft, the tech giant Mr Gates co-founded, when Melinda worked there as a product manager. According to Melinda, Bill weighed the pros and cons of marrying her on a whiteboard. They married in Hawaii in 1994.
In 2000, they founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with the goal of reducing poverty and improving health care around the world. The couple shares control of the enormous charity with one other trustee, Warren Buffett.
In March 2020, Mr Gates stepped down from his board position at Microsoft to devote more time to the charity. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the Foundation dove into fighting the virus, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs.
In a 2019 Netflix documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain, Mr Gates was highly complimentary of his wife.
“In the case of Melinda, it is a truly equal partner,” he said. “She’s a lot like me in that she is optimistic and she is interested in science. She is better with people than I am. She’s a tiny bit less hardcore about knowing, you know, immunology, than I am.”
If the Gates do divorce, astronomical amounts of money could be involved. Mr Gates is currently the fourth richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $124bn.