Melinda Gates is set to become the latest member of Silicon Valley’s billionaire ex-wives club after filing for divorce from husband Bill after 27 years.
It makes the couple, worth $130billion, the second-most valuable to divorce after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott split in 2019, after it was revealed Bezos was having an affair.
The pair revealed they decided to part ways because ‘we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple’, while remaining business partners in their foundation.
The two divorces draw comparisons: Like Jeff and MacKenzie, the Gateses have no prenup and so are working to divvy up their estate between them.
While the exact breakdown is not yet clear, Melinda will almost certainly walk away from it a billionaire just as MacKenzie – currently worth some $60billion – did, and has vowed to continue with her philanthropic work, just like her counterpart who donated $6billion to charitable causes last year.
Could it be that seeing MacKenzie thrive in her new initiatives – and find love again with new husband, high school chemistry teacher Dan Jewett, whom she married in March this year – gave Melinda the confidence to go it alone?
In June last year, MacKenzie teamed up with Melinda to launch a $30million new venture called the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, funding companies that will expand women’s influence in the US by 2030.
While Melinda has long been a public advocate for gender equality, it marked the largest public philanthropic effort for MacKenzie and was her first public philanthropic effort since her divorce.
Melinda Gates is set to become the latest member of Silicon Valley’s billionaire ex-wives club after announcing her marriage to husband Bill (pictured together in 2017) is ‘irretrievably broken’, joining MacKenzie Scott, the former spouse of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos
Naturally the Gates’ split has drawn comparisons to the recent split of fellow high profile Seattle-area billionaire couple, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos (pictured in March 2018) – who has since adopted her grandfather’s surname Scott
It’s believed MacKenzie and Jeff did not have a prenuptial agreement in place when they dissolved their 25-year marriage in 2019 – at a time when Amazon founder Bezos’ reported net worth amounted to nearly $157 billion – after it emerged he was conducting an extramarital with former newscaster Lauren Sanchez.
Since their split, MacKenzie is very much focused on her own philanthropy work. In December it was reported she had given 9.4 per cent of her $60billion fortune to charity in a year.
It followed her signing up to pledge at least half of her wealth to The Giving Pledge – an organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett – in May 2019.
The two women certainly have a lot in common; they met their respective exes at work and faced the dilemma of juggling high flying careers with motherhood.
MacKenzie met her now ex-husband while working for him at D.E. Shaw as his assistant before becoming one of Amazon’s first employees when they left to co-found the company. When Amazon took off, MacKenzie adopted a less involved role in the business, preferring to focus on their four children and her literary career.
Melinda and Bill met when she was hired by his company Microsoft as a product manager in 1987, and married in 1994. When Melinda fell pregnant she announced that she would be quitting work job after giving birth – a decision she says left Bill horrified.
Shortly after giving birth to eldest daughter Jennifer, Melinda says she felt incredibly ‘alone’ because her husband was spending so much of his time working, leaving her to take on the majority of the parenting duties by herself, and she admits she questioned whether he was actually invested in fatherhood.
It wasn’t until they came together again professionally in 2000 to set up the non-profit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that she began working again.
The couple said their work with the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – the world’s largest charitable foundation which they established in 2000 – will continue, but not their marriage, adding: ‘We no longer feel we are able to grow as a couple in this next phase of our lives’
Melinda filed a petition for divorce from Bill on Monday in the Superior Court of Washington – King County. In the petition (pictured) she described their marriage as ‘irretrievably broken’
The 65-year-old Microsoft founder and his 56-year-old wife shared the news with identical statements on Twitter (pictured)
The couple are pictured with their three kids in a 2019 family photo. The kids – Jennifer (center), Rory (right) and Phoebe (left) are now aged 25, 21 and 18
Melinda clearly thrives on their philanthropic work which for the past two decades has thrust her into the spotlight. Her experience of working a male-dominated workplace at Microsoft has undoubtedly spurred her to champion gender equality.
While the reason behind their split after over a quarter-century remains a mystery, Melinda has previously suggested her husband had trouble balancing work and family.
The couple said their work with the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – the world’s largest charitable foundation which they established in 2000 – will continue, but not their marriage, adding: ‘We no longer feel we are able to grow as a couple in this next phase of our lives.’
In her memoir published that same year Melinda wrote about her private struggles as the wife of a public icon and stay-at-home mother with three kids.
In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures as a separate, independent organization to identify, help develop and implement innovative solutions to problems affecting women and families in the US.
In 2017 she said: ‘As I thought about strong women of history, I realized that they stepped out in some way”.
Shortly after her divorce, MacKenzie announced she’d joined The Giving Pledge, an organization set up by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett where the richest people in the world donate half of their wealth to charity
Bill made his first billion in 1987, becoming the youngest ever billionaire. He was 31. He founded Microsoft in 1975. Melinda joined the company that year. He is shown, left, in 1985, aged 29, and she is shown, right, in 1995, the year after they married
The pair are pictured during a Zoom appearance on April 19 at One World: Together At Home, a broadcast special to support healthcare workers
Two years later she published The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, in which she shares stories of women she met during her years of humanitarian work who have ‘have called her to action’, along with her own personal journey to achieving equality in her marriage, finding her voice and becoming an advocate for women and girls.
Over the past couple of years Melinda has built up a strong brand and an individual presence on Instagram which sings to her values and the causes she champions – keeping her maiden name French in her handle.
Following her most expensive divorce settlement in history from Bezos, MacKenzie has been said to be ‘quietly thriving’ – having previously been shy of the limelight.
While her decision to sign Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge was viewed by some as a swipe at Bezos – whose notable lack of charitable giving had attracted criticism – it does appear to be a genuine desire to give back, admitting at the time she had a ‘disproportionate’ amount of money.
‘There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some, and obstacles to countless others,’ she said.
After donating $1.6 billion to 116 non-profits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations in July last year, she reportedly asked her advisers to help her ‘accelerate’ her previous year’s giving with immediate help to those financially devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and went on to donate a total of $5.7 billion in 2020.
Over the past couple of years Melinda has built up a strong brand and an individual presence on Instagram which sings to her values and the causes she champions
It’s believed she asked community leaders to help her identify 512 organizations for seven and eight figure gifts, including food banks, human-service organizations and racial-justice charities. Meanwhile Bezos donated $10billion to launch the Bezos Earth Fund.
While the Gates have no prenup, it appears a lot of the work of dividing up their estate – which includes properties in five states, a private jet, an astonishing art collection and a fleet of luxury cars – has already been done, as their divorce papers repeatedly refer to a ‘separation contract’ which both have signed. The contract itself has not been made public.
The documents, which were filed by Melinda and obtained by DailyMail.com, came to light after the couple’s eldest daughter Jennifer revealed their family has been going through a ‘challenging stretch of time’.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after they made their last public appearance, virtually, at a COVID event for healthcare workers.
Melinda did not ask for any spousal support but requested a trial date in April 2022. However it is likely the divorce will be settled without a trial.
The petition states that finances pertaining to the couple’s two children are addressed in the separation contract. The document was signed by both Bill and Melinda, as well as their attorneys.
Both Bill and Melinda hired powerhouse law firms to assist in the divorce. Melinda is represented by a team of four New York based attorneys from two separate firms: Cohen Clair Lane Griefer Thorpe & Rottenstreich LLP and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
In their statement, the Gates – unlike MacKenzie and Bezos – vowed to continue that work together after their split.
Melinda pictured signing copies of her biography The Moment of Life, ‘the 2019 edition versus 2021 edition’
The biggest divorce since Bezos: Bill and Melinda Gates will have to divide his $130BILLION fortune including Da Vinci artworks, a fleet of cars, jet, and properties in five states
Bill Gates could drop from #4 to #17 on billionaires index if he splits fortune 50/50 with Melinda
Bill Gates currently holds the title of fourth-richest person in the world with a net worth of $124billion, per Forbes. But if he were to split his fortune in half with Melinda in their divorce, he would drop to 17.
1. Jeff Bezos – $177B
2. Elon Musk – $151B
3. Bernard Arnault & family – $150B
4. Bill Gates – $124B
5.Mark Zuckerberg – $97B
6. Warren Buffett – $96B
7. Larry Ellison – $93B
8. Larry Page – $91.5B
9. Sergey Brin – $89B
10. Mukesh Ambani – $84.5B
16. Carlos Slim Helu & family – $62.8B
17. Alice Walton – $61.8B
Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce will be the largest division of assets since Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie split in 2019.
The Gates are worth an estimated $130 billion, making them the fourth-richest people in the world, behind Bezos, Elon Musk, and French luxury goods owner Bernard Arnault.
Should their split their fortune in half in their divorce, Bill could drop in rank to around number 17 on the Forbes billionaires’ index.
Their wealth includes several impressive real estate holdings, including their main home in Washington state and properties in California, Florida, Wyoming and Massachusetts.
In addition, they have a private jet and an astonishing art collection. He also owns a fleet of fast cars.
Bill owns 1.37 percent of Microsoft’s outstanding shares, which are worth more than $26 billion, according to CNBC.
He stepped down from the board of Microsoft in March 2020, but remains as a technology adviser to CEO Satya Nadella.
He also makes investments through his Gates Ventures private office.
In 2015, Melinda established a new organization called Pivotal Ventures, an independent executive office.
The idea was to allow her to pursue ideas that might not fit within the structure of the Gates Foundation.
In 2000, the couple founded The Gates Foundation, dedicated to helping some of the world’s poorest people through initiatives such as eradicating polio, reducing the spread of malaria and HIV/Aids, and investing in sanitation and financial systems for those without.
They have poured huge amounts of their own money into the Foundation, making it one of the world’s largest philanthropic organizations.
From 1994 through 2018, the couple gave the foundation more than $36billion.
In 2010 they founded The Giving Pledge, alongside Warren Buffett, and promised to give away the majority of their fortune.
Yet, despite their The Giving Pledge and their namesake foundation, the Gates retain plenty of assets which will need to be split between them.
The Gates family home contains a 30-car garage and 20-room main living area
Gates said that he wanted his home to be of the highest craftsmanship, but not ostentatious
Property: A $125million compound on the outskirts of Seattle, seaside mansion in San Diego and ranch getaway in Santa Fe
Prime among the couple’s properties is their main family home, known as Xanadu 2.0.
The 66,000-square-foot mansion overlooks Lake Washington in Medina, nine miles out of downtown Seattle – where The Gates Foundation has its headquarters.
Bill purchased the lot in 1988 for $2million, but spent seven years building his dream home – at a cost of $63million.
The one divorce pricier than Bill and Melinda Gates’: Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos split their $137billion fortune after his affair wrecked their 25-year marriage
The divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates marks the second most expensive in the world – coming behind that of Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos.
The Amazon boss and his philanthropist wife, who now uses her maiden name Scott, announced their split in January 2019 after 25 years and four children together.
Hours later the National Enquirer published a bombshell report revealing Bezos’ affair with Lauren Sanchez, who herself was married to Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell.
The Enquirer claimed to have conducted a four-month investigation into Bezos and Sanchez’s relationship and said it obtained explicit texts and photos the couple had sent to each other. It was later suggested that Bezos and Scott had timed their divorce announcement to get ahead of the Enquirer report.
Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos announced their split in January 2019 after 25 years and four children together
Their divorce was finalized in April 2019 with Jeff keeping 75 percent of the couple’s stock and MacKenzie keeping a four percent stake in Amazon – translating to about 19.7 million shares worth roughly $35billion at the time.
Scott is considered the third wealthiest woman in the world after her net worth surged by $30.3 billion to $61.4billion last year when Amazon shares rocketed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile Bezos also saw a massive windfall as his net worth surged to $201.4billion.
In the wake of the divorce Scott has donated almost $6billion of her wealth to charity.
In a Medium post in December, Scott revealed she had given away $4.1 billion in the previous four months to hundreds of organizations in a bid to help those financially gutted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She had previously donated $1.68billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations in July 2020.
In March it was revealed she tied the knot with Dan Jewett, a teacher at a school her kids attended in Seattle.
Bezos, who is still dating Sanchez, extended his congratulations in a statement through an Amazon spokesperson, writing: ‘Dan is such a great guy, and I am happy and excited for the both of them.’
The construction along the picturesque lake angered some neighbors, The Washington Post reported at the time – so Bill responded with free car washes, and made his construction crew available to help with little projects at nearby homes.
The home is now worth an estimated $125 million.
‘I wanted craftsmanship but nothing ostentatious,’ Bill wrote in his book, The Road Ahead, which was written from the guest house, while the main house was being constructed.
‘I wanted a house that would accommodate sophisticated, changing technology but in an unobtrusive way that made it clear that technology was the servant, not the master.’
The home has an indoor-outdoor pool with an underwater music system and fossil designs on the floor, plus an ancient fossil imprint of a palm frond behind the diving board.
In the five-acre plot, there is an artificial stream stocked with salmon and cut-throat trout, and a beach with sand imported, according to some, from the Caribbean.
Inside the seven bedroom mansion, with a reported 18 bathrooms, is an art deco home cinema with seating for 20, and a 1,000-square-foot dining room with seating for 24.
For larger gatherings, the 2,300 square-foot reception hall can seat 150 people for dinner, or 200 for a cocktail party.
The 2,100-square-foot library includes two secret pivoting bookcases, one of which contains a bar.
A special nook has been constructed to display one of Bill’s most prized possessions – a scientific notebook kept by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s, called the Codex.
Bill bought it at auction in 1994 for $30 million.
On the ceiling is engraved a quote from The Great Gatsby: ‘He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.’
There are four rare copies of the book in his library, The Washington Post reported.
Guests at the property, according to Seattle Curbed, are giving a pin to wear on arrival, with sensors.
Depending on their preferences, the temperature, music and lighting will change in the house.
Each room comes with its own touchpad to control the room environment.
‘I have a nice house,’ Bill said in a February 2019 ‘Ask Me Anything’ forum on Reddit.
‘It includes a trampoline room which seems kind of over the top, but my kids love using it to work off their excess energy.
‘I am not sure how guilty I should feel about being in a great house.’
It is not his only great house.
The Gates also own a $59 million ranch in Wellington, Florida – an area known for its equestrianism, which will appeal to his eldest daughter Jennifer, a talented horsewoman.
Wellington, described by The Real Deal as the winter equestrian capital of the world, is the seasonal playground for the families of a number of billionaires – Michael Bloomberg, the late Steve Jobs, the Campbell’s Soup family, and celebrities whose children compete in horse riding competitions.
The family also own the Irma Lake Lodge, a $9 million, 492-acre Wyoming ranch Buffalo Bill named after his oldest daughter back when he settled the place in 1902.
Bill bought the property in 2009.
According to the realtor’s description, obtained by Insider: ‘The ranch lies adjacent to Shoshone National Forest and nearby Washakie Wilderness, which gives this property a backyard of over three million acres containing continuous wilderness and forest lands.’
In addition to the main 15,000-square-foot house with its five bedrooms and three bathrooms, there is a guesthouse, caretaker’s house, dairy cabin, Buffalo Bill stable and a rustic hut on the island located in the middle of Irma Lake.
Perched on a knoll is is Buffalo Bill’s original three-room hunting cabin – not fit for habitation, and kept in its original state.
The land is home to elk, moose, Mule deer, Bighorn sheep, bear, mountain lion, wolves, bobcats, wolverines and lynx.
A picture showing the inside of the home the Gates bought near San Diego for $43 million
Bill and Melinda Gates bought the massive San Diego beachfront estate in April 2020
The couple have two homes in California – the 228-acre Rancho Paseana, which he purchased for $18 million in September 2014 from diet queen Jenny Craig.
It includes a racetrack, orchard, and five barns with space for 50 horses.
He bought another $43 million property in California near San Diego, closing the deal in April 2020.
The luxurious six-bedroom, four-bathroom, 5,800-square-foot home was sold by Madeleine Pickens, a former wife of the billionaire oil baron T. Boone Pickens.
According to the listing details, obtained by The Real Deal, the house is well-known as a city landmark and is considered ‘one of the most prominent coastal contemporary beach homes on the West Coast.’ It has 120 feet of private ocean frontage.
Farmland: Nearly 200,000 acres across five states
In addition to his five homes, Bill has quietly built up a massive agriculture portfolio.
The 65-year-old’s largest holdings include 69,071 acres in Louisiana, 47,927 acres in Arkansas, 25,750 acres in Arizona, 20,588 acres in Nebraska and 16,097 in Washington state.
But even with his big new agricultural holdings, Bill still doesn’t rank in the Top 100 of private landowners overall in the U.S. – when considering owners of land of all types, not just agricultural.
The title for largest landholdings overall goes to US businessman John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, who owns 2.2million acres.
It is unclear why Bill, better known as a self-confessed computing ‘nerd’, has invested in farmland so heavily, and details of the land are scarce, as revealed in The Land Report.
The acquisitions are held directly, as well as through Bill’s personal investment entity, Cascade Investments.
The tech billionaire has quietly bought up 242,000 acres of farmland in 18 states – and 268,984 of multi-use land in 19 states in total, making him the biggest agricultural landowner in the US, though far short of the biggest overall landowner in the country
Cars: A garage for 30 vehicles filled with a Porsche 930 Turbo, Jaguar XJ6 and Ferrari 348
Bill is known for his love of cars – his Seattle home has a garage with space for 30 vehicles.
He told Ellen DeGeneres in February 2018 that his biggest splurge after founding Microsoft was buying a Porsche 911 supercar, which he later sold.
‘That was an indulgence,’ Bill told DeGeneres.
The car, which he bought when Microsoft was based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wasn’t just for show: Bill loved to put its speed to the test and race it in the desert.
His partner Paul Allen once had to bail him out of jail after one particularly reckless ride.
Bill is also the owner of a Porsche 930 Turbo, a Jaguar XJ6 and a Ferrari 348.
His most valuable car is believed to be an extremely rare Porsche 959 – only several hundred were ever made – that he had to wait 13 years for while its arrival was held up by customs into the U.S. It even required the passage of a special law, the Show or Display Rule, to allow its use in the country.
They will sell for up to $2 million at auction.
Bill’s most recent purchase, he said in February 2020, was a Porsche Taycan – an electric car.
‘I have to say it’s a premium-priced car, but it is very, very cool,’ Bill said in a YouTube interview.
‘That’s my first electric car, and I’m enjoying it a lot.’
Left: A Porsche 959, similar to that owned by Bill Gates, is seen in Britain. Right: A Porsche Taycan Turbo S, of the kind owned by Bill Gates. He said the car was ‘very cool’
How Bill Gates fell for Melinda after she beat him at Clue – and decided to marry her using a whiteboard pros and cons list
Bill and Melinda Gates’ decades-long relationship began with a shared passion for puzzles, problem-solving and math games – however it seems the riddle of how to save their 27-year marriage it one that neither could solve.
Their marriage, which they only decided to embark on in 1994 after Bill had completed an extensive pros and cons list on a whiteboard in his bedroom, seems to have come to an end in much the same way that it started – with a measured discussion about the positives and negatives.
In their statement, the couple noted that they have done ‘a lot of work on their relationship’ – during which they welcomed three children together, launched a charity foundation, and amassed a shared fortune of $130billion, largely through his technology company Microsoft.
It was that same company that brought the two together in the first place, after Melinda was hired as a product manager in 1987 – the only woman to be chosen from the company’s first intake of MBA graduates.
The couple’s romance began after they were seated next to each other at a business dinner in New York City. According to Melinda, they ‘talked over dinner that evening’ and she could ‘sense he was interested’, and a few days later when they bumped into each other in the company parking lot, he asked her out – although his initial offer wasn’t up to her standards.
Happier times: The couple wed in Hawaii in 1994, having first started their romance in 1987, when Melinda, 56, took on a role at Microsoft. However the decision to marry was not easy for Bill, 65, who made a pros and cons list about it on a whiteboard
Family: Bill and Melinda welcomed their first child, Jennifer, now 25, two years after they married, and they went on to have two more children, a son, Rory, now 21, and a second daughter, Phoebe, now 18
‘He struck up a conversation and asked me out for two weeks from Friday,’ she revealed in her 2019 book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.
‘I laughed and said: “That’s not spontaneous enough for me. Ask me out closer to the date,” and gave him my number.’
Refusing to be deterred by her initial rebuttal, Bill phoned Melinda two hours later and asked her to go out with him that same evening, jokingly asking whether such a short-notice date was ‘spontaneous enough for her’.
Melinda recalled how the couple bonded over a shared love of ‘puzzles’ and their competitive natures, writing: ‘We found we had a lot in common. We both love puzzles, and we both love to compete. So we had puzzle contests and played math games.
‘I think he got intrigued when I beat him at a math game and won the first time we played Clue, the board game where you figure out who did the murder in what room with what weapon. He urged me to read The Great Gatsby, his favorite novel, and I already had, twice.
‘Maybe that’s when he knew he’d met his match. His romantic match, he would say. When we got engaged, someone asked Bill: “How does Melinda make you feel?” and he answered: “Amazingly, she makes me feel like getting married.”‘
However Bill’s proposal was not a decision that he took lightly – quite the opposite in fact – and it was not one that either of them had expected him to have to make so soon after that first date.
During a 2019 Netflix documentary about the Microsoft founder, Inside Bill’s Brain, the couple revealed that they were not entirely serious about their romance in the first few months; Melinda actually dated several other people in the early days of their relationship, while the ‘other woman’ in Bill’s life was his beloved computer company.
‘She had other boyfriends, and I had Microsoft,’ Bill said. ‘We were like, “Hey we are not really serious about each other, are we? We are not going to demand each other’s time.”‘
Melinda agreed: ‘I was new to Microsoft, there were a lot of men there and… you are still looking around.’
Both admitted that they were somewhat surprised to realize that they had fallen in love, however it was in that moment when they professed those feelings for one another that they knew they had to make a decision about whether or not their relationship would lead to an engagement and marriage, or whether they should simply end it then and there.
Where it all began: Bill first asked Melinda on a date in 1987 after they were seated next to one another at a company dinner
Bond: The couple later revealed that they first clicked over a shared love of puzzles and math problems – and their similar competitive edges
Changes: Melinda learned that she was pregnant with the couple’s first child shortly before they were due to take a trip to China in 1995 (pictured)
‘Sort of to our surprise, certainly my surprise, we said, “Hey, I love you,”‘ Bill recalled of the moment, which occurred one year into their relationship. ‘And she said she loved me and then it was like, “Wow, and now what is going to happen.”‘
For Bill, it was not a question of whether or not he wanted to be with Melinda, but more a question of whether he was actually capable of becoming a husband, while also remaining focused on building his tech empire.
‘[He] wanted to be married, but he didn’t know whether he could actually commit to it and [still run] Microsoft,’ Melinda explained in the Netflix documentary. ‘He had to make a decision…’
Referring back to the problem-solving skills that had first sparked his interest in Melinda, Bill decided to pursue the most logical solution to that question – by completing a pros and cons list, laying out all of the negative and positive aspects of a potential marriage on a whiteboard in his bedroom, which Melinda actually caught him filling in.
Although neither have divulged the exact specifics of Bill’s list, it seems the pros outweighed the cons, and they got engaged soon after – although they didn’t actually tie the knot until several years later, in a beautiful ceremony held in Lanai, Hawaii.
Even during the wedding, Bill’s logical side took over, with Melinda recalling on Instagram when marking their 25th anniversary how he ‘did some astonishingly quick math to calculate’ how they should cut the cake so that all of their guests got the same size slice.
Less than two years after their wedding, Melinda discovered she was pregnant with their first child – daughter Jennifer, now 25 – and she found herself faced with a similar question that her husband had answered with his pros and cons list: could she, and would she want to, balance her career at Microsoft with her role as a mother.
At the time, Melinda says Microsoft was a ‘huge part’ of the couple’s ‘life together’ – so much so that she actually considered not telling her husband about their pregnancy until days after she found out about it, because they were about to leave for a rare vacation, and she wanted him to be able to relax.
‘In 1995, after Bill and I had been married nearly two years and were about to leave on a trip to China, I discovered I was pregnant,’ she wrote in her book. ‘This China trip was a huge deal for us. Bill rarely took time off from Microsoft, and we were going with other couples as well.
‘I didn’t want to mess up the trip, so I considered not telling Bill I was pregnant until we came back. For a day and a half, I thought, I’ll just save the news. Then I realized: “No, I’ve got to tell him because what if something goes wrong? And, more basically, I’ve got to tell him because it’s his baby, too.”
‘When I sat Bill down for the baby talk one morning before work, he had two reactions. He was thrilled about the baby, and then he said: “You considered not telling me? Are you kidding?”‘
Commitment: Melinda was determined to give their children as normal an upbringing as possible, and revealed that she even registered the kids at school under her maiden name so people wouldn’t make the connection with their wealthy family
Philanthropy: The Microsoft founder has said that the majority of his fortune will go to charity when he dies – however that fortune will likely now have to be split between the couple. It is not known if they had a prenuptial agreement
Melinda shocked her husband even more when she announced that she would no longer keep working after giving birth – a decision that she says left Bill horrified.
‘He was stunned,’ she recalled, revealing that he simply responded: ‘What do you mean, you’re not going back?’
‘And I said: “We’re lucky enough not to need my income. So this is about how we want to raise a family. You’re not going to downshift at work, and I don’t see how I can put in the hours I need to do a great job at work and raise a family at the same time.”‘
Over the next decade, the couple welcomed two more children; their son Rory, now 21, followed by a second daughter Phoebe, now 18.
Although Melinda did not return to work at Microsoft, the couple did put their heads together professionally again in 2000, when they set up their non-profit, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is now said to be the largest private foundation in the world.
The focus of the foundation is to improve healthcare, increase education, and tackle poverty across the globe.
When the non-profit was set up, Bill stepped down as the CEO of Microsoft and moved into a director role, giving up his control of day-to-day operations so that he could focus more of his energy on the couple’s philanthropy.
But while the relationship might have seemed idyllic on the surface – courtesy of the couple’s sprawling homes, lavish vacations, and many public charitable endeavors – behind the scenes, Melinda admits that they had to work incredibly hard to make their marriage work, and to ensure that their extravagant wealth didn’t negatively impact their children.
Shortly after giving birth to Jennifer, Melinda says she felt incredibly ‘alone’ because her husband was spending so much of his time working, leaving her to take on the majority of the parenting duties by herself, and she admits she questioned whether he was actually invested in fatherhood.
‘When we first had Jenn, I felt very alone in our marriage,’ she explained in her book. ‘Bill was CEO of Microsoft at the time. He was beyond busy; everyone wanted him, and I was thinking, “OK, maybe he wanted to have kids in theory, but not in reality.”‘
Over the years however, the couple worked together to carve out ‘equal’ roles – and to turn their marriage into a ‘partnership’, that saw them both taking on their fair share of childcare, including Bill offering to drive their daughter Jennifer to school several days a week, because it meant spending more than two hours in the car every day.