There’s no such thing as a billion-dollar divorce that slips under the radar—let alone a $124 billion divorce.
And the May 3 announcement that Bill and Melinda Gates were ending their marriage after 27 years came as a shock regardless, the Microsoft cofounder and his partner in global philanthropy innocuously chugging along all this time, their Seattle-area home base a 66,000-square-foot mega-mansion with its own beach on the shore of Lake Washington.
(Though there’s no such thing as too much space at times, such as during a pandemic. “Working from home—that was a piece that I think we hadn’t really individually prepared for quite as much,” Melinda told The New York Times in October, the comment now dripping with hindsight.)
Among the immediate questions in the wake of the split news: What was to become of their eponymous foundation, which since 2000 has dispersed $53.8 billion to public health and development initiatives, including $20 billion of the couple’s own Microsoft stock? And what about all their money in general, since one of the first behind-the-scenes details to come out about the parents of three was that they had no prenuptial agreement?
Then, of course, there were the personal questions: Why now? What made them arrive at the belief, as they said in their official statement, that they could no longer “grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives”? What led to their marriage becoming, as Melinda’s divorce petition stated, “irretrievably broken”?