Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates filed for divorce on May 3rd after 27 years of marriage. Now, three months later, the separation of one of the world’s richest, most powerful couples has been finalized by a judge in King County, Washington.
Court records show that neither party will change their name or receive “spousal support,” report CNN and Bloomberg, but exactly how the Gates’ immense fortune will be divided is unclear. Washington is a community property state, which means all assets accumulated during a marriage must be divided equally in the event of a divorce. But the Gates’ split is being carried out under the aegis of a separation contract, details of which are unknown.
Bill Gates is currently the fourth richest man in the world
According to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, Bill Gates is currently the fourth richest man in the world, worth $151 billion. The judge who finalized the divorce said only that the contract was “just and equitable.”
After the divorce was announced earlier this year, stories emerged of Gates’ inappropriate behavior in the workplace. The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft’s board of directors thought Gates should step down after investigating an affair he pursued with an employee. Gates resigned from the board in 2020 before the investigation was completed, with a spokesperson claiming this had nothing to do with the investigation. “There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” the spokesperson told the WSJ.
Members of Microsoft’s board were also reportedly interested in Gates’ relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. As reported by The New York Times in May, Gates became friendly with Epstein in 2011, three years after the financier pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from children as young as 14. The Times reported that “Ms. French Gates had expressed discomfort with her husband spending time with the sex offender, but Mr. Gates continued doing so.” A spokesperson for Gates told the Times that the paper’s “characterization of his meetings with Epstein and others about philanthropy is inaccurate.”
One of the big unknowns following the divorce is the future of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has just under $50 billion in assets, reportedly making it the second largest charitable foundation in the world. Currently, the foundation plans to pursue a two-year trial period to see if the former couple can continue to work together constructively as co-chairs and trustees. If not, Melinda French Gates will resign from the foundation.
“In such a case, Melinda would receive personal resources from Bill for her philanthropic work,” said the foundation’s CEO Mark Suzman last month. “These resources would be completely separate from the foundation’s endowment, which would not be affected.”
Following the announcement of their divorce, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates committed an additional $15 billion to the foundation, which will bring its total endowment up to $65 billion.