SEATTLE: Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife and fellow philanthropist Melinda announced on Monday (May 3) they are divorcing after a 27-year marriage.
The announcement from one of the world's wealthiest couples, with an estimated net worth of about US$130 billion, was made in a joint statement on Twitter.
"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the two said in a statement posted on the Twitter account of Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft.
The Microsoft co-founder and his wife, who launched the world’s largest charitable foundation, said they would continue to work together at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"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," they said in a statement.
“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 ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
The financial details of the decision were not immediately clear.
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The couple's sprawling Seattle-based foundation is easily the most influential private foundation in the world, with an endowment worth nearly US$50 billion. It has focused on global health and development and US education issues since incorporating in 2000.
In her 2019 memoir, The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates wrote about her childhood, life and private struggles as the wife of a public icon and stay-at-home mom with three kids. She won Gates’ heart after meeting at a work dinner, sharing a mutual love of puzzles and beating him at a math game.
The couple were married in 1994 in Hawaii. They met after she began working at Microsoft as a product manager in 1987.
Last year, Bill Gates, formerly the world's richest person, said he was stepping down from Microsoft's board to focus on philanthropy.
Gates was Microsoft’s CEO until 2000 and since then has gradually scaled back his involvement in the company he started with Paul Allen in 1975. He transitioned out of a day-to-day role in Microsoft in 2008 and served as chairman of the board until 2014.
In recent years, Bill Gates has largely distanced himself from Microsoft and the tech industry, instead speaking about poverty and health initiatives, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year the foundation pledged some US$250 million to help fight the pandemic, with some of the funds channelled to the distribution of life-saving doses of COVID-19 vaccines to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Gates, who had been warning as early as 2015 about the potential dangers of a global pandemic, became the target of conspiracy theorists who claimed he knew in advance about COVID-19.
The Gateses will be the second high-profile Seattle-area billionaire couple to end their marriage in recent years.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos finalized their divorce in 2019. MacKenzie Scott has since remarried and now focuses on her own philanthropy. She received a 4 per cent stake in Amazon, worth more than US$36 billion.