The divorce papers of Bill and Melinda Gates revealed the following: There is no pre-nuptial agreement.
The couple is divorcing after bonding over their shared interest in puzzles and philanthropy, and the billionaire's wealth may prove difficult to split.
Bill and Melinda Gates did not sign a prenuptial agreement outlining how they will share their fortune, which includes properties in five states, a private jet, an art collection, and a fleet of luxury vehicles.
Melinda's divorce papers filed in Washington and obtained by the Daily Mail indicate that she did not seek spousal help and has sought an April 2022 trial date.
However, it is unlikely that the divorce will go to trial without the former couple referring to a separation settlement that contains details about the couple's finances and two of their children.
The couple owns a private jet and other homes, including their primary residence in Washington, as well as residences in California, Florida, Wyoming, and Massachusetts. Their family home is a 66,000-square-foot mansion that was bought for $US2 million ($A2.5 million) and renovated over a seven-year period for a total cost of $US63 million. It is now estimated to be worth $US125 million ($A161 million) and features seven bedrooms, a record 18 bathrooms, an art-deco cinema, a 24-seat dining room, an indoor-outdoor pool with an underwater music system, an artificial stream stocked with salmon and trout, and a reportedly imported sand beach.
Additionally, there is a trampoline area, a reception hall that seats 150 for dinner and 200 for a cocktail party, and a library with secret pivoting bookcases that conceal a bar.
Additionally, the Gates own a $US59 million ($A76 million) ranch in Florida and a $US9 million ($A11.6 million) ranch in Wyoming, which features five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a guesthouse, a caretaker's house, a dairy lodge, a stable, and a hut in the middle of a lake.
Two homes in California were purchased for $US18 million ($A23 million), one with a racetrack, orchard, and five barns with space for 50 hours, and another for $US43 million ($A55 million) with six bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Bill is an avid automotive enthusiast who owns a Porsche 930 Turbo, a Jaguar XJ6, a Ferrari 348, and a special Porsche 959 that was kept up in US customs for 13 years. He most recently purchased a Porsche Taycan electric car.
Over three decades after their relationship blossomed at Microsoft, the company he co-founded that made him a billionaire, the former couple declared their split.
The former couple met at Microsoft in 1987, shortly after Melinda began working there as a product manager, and struck up a friendship while seated next to one another at a work dinner. Melinda said that it took him several months to approach her.
Seven years after meeting, the two married in Hawaii in 1994. He was 38, she was 29, and the couple had three children together: Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe, 18.
Mr Gates, 65, is the world's fourth wealthiest individual, estimated to be worth $US130.5 billion ($A168 billion) by Forbes, after becoming the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 1986 when Microsoft went public.
Mr Gate's fortune is valued even higher by Bloomberg's Billionaire's Index, at $US145.8 billion ($A187.9 billion). After 27 years of marriage, the couple has decided to divorce.
A casual beginning to a lengthy engagement.
When the pair met, they apparently shared a passion for puzzles, and Melinda enjoyed beating Bill at math games, although their relationship was not serious at first.
“She had other suitors, and I had Microsoft,” Mr Gates explained.
“We were thinking, 'Hey, we're not really that into each other, are we? We are not going to compete for one another's time.'"
Mrs Gates continued, "I was new to Microsoft, there were a lot of men there, and you're still looking around."
When Melinda became pregnant with their first child, Bill was taken aback when she announced she would leave Microsoft and stay at home to be a full-time mother.
She mentioned that she did not have a role model for working mothers growing up in Dallas, despite the fact that her mother oversaw a small real estate investment set up by her parents.
“The other factor that contributed to it – I mean, let's face it: Bill was the CEO of Microsoft, correct? That is a fast-paced technology industry. That was a business that grew at a breakneck pace.
“I kept telling him, 'But someone has to be home.' If we want our children to grow up with the ideals we share as a couple, someone has to be home to instill those values,'” she told Business Insider Australia in 2019.
“However, my perspective shifted over time when I realized I had developed an atmosphere in which I could give my children privacy and allow them to develop into their true selves. We had the beliefs, and those around us were still imparting those values. Then I realized, 'Well, I do want to live, and I am going to be a working mother.'"
Melinda mentioned that during their marriage, Bill and her would still do the dishes together after dinner.
Bill Gates said in the 2019 Netflix documentary Inside Bill's Brain, "In the case of Melinda, it is a completely equal partner." “She is similar to me in that she is positive and enthusiastic about science. She is more empathetic than I am. She is somewhat less adamant than I am about understanding, you know, immunology.”
Bill recently shared a photo of the two of them on Valentine's Day with the caption "I couldn't ask for a better partner on this journey."
Two of the world's most influential philanthropists.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000, has invested $US53.8 billion ($A69 billion) on philanthropic programs since its inception.
Mr Gates resigned as CEO of Microsoft in 2008 to concentrate on the foundation and will step down from the company's board of directors in May 2020.
When the couple announced their divorce, they stated that they will continue to work together on the foundation, which seeks to enhance global health, fight climate change, strengthen US education, and promote global equality of opportunity.
The foundation promised $US1.75 billion ($A2.25 billion) last year to combat the COVID-19 pandemic over a two-year period.
According to Forbes, the couple has donated more than $US29 billion ($A37 billion) to charitable causes since January 2021, while the foundation has a trust endowment of nearly $US50 billion ($A64 billion).
Mrs Gates, 56, holds degrees in computer science and economics, as well as a master's degree in business administration. She worked at Microsoft for ten years before deciding to leave to concentrate on her family and philanthropic work, according to the foundation's website.
She said that she enjoyed working at Microsoft because "we were changing the world," but she described the atmosphere as "offensive," and after two years, she questioned whether she wanted to remain with the company, Business Insider Australia wrote. She chose to forge her own culture and observe what transpired.
Since leaving Microsoft and raising her children, she has founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment firm focused on social progress, and written a book, The Moment of Lift, about inspiring people she met through her charity work.
Additionally, it chronicled her upbringing, life, and private struggles as the wife of a prominent billionaire.
The book's central theme was the ability to overcome poverty.
“Poverty is the inability to safeguard your family,” she wrote. “Poverty is the inability of mothers with more resources to save their children.” And, since a mother's greatest instinct is to protect her children, poverty is the world's most disempowering force. The most unfair thing that can happen is for children to suffer as a result of their parents' poverty.”
How the funds will be distributed
The former couple were not the first high-profile billionaire couple to divorce.
Jezz Bezos, Amazon's billionaire founder, declared his divorce from MacKenzie Scott in 2019, agreeing to a $US32 billion settlement, the majority of which was made up of the tech giant's stock.
However, splitting the Gates fortune could be more complicated, since the majority of Bill's wealth is tied to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the Australian Financial Review.
Additionally, the Microsoft co-founder holds Cascade Investments, a holding firm with holdings in real estate, oil, and hospitality, as well as shares in publicly traded firms such as Canadian National Railway and tractor manufacturer Deere & Co.
In 2015, he founded Breakthrough Energy, an initiative aimed at slowing climate change.
According to Forbes, Bill owns more than 1% of Microsoft stock, which is currently valued at more than $26 billion.