Bill and Melinda Gates, the chairs and founders of their eponymous research foundation, announced Monday they are ending their marriage.
The Microsoft co-founder and his wife, the company’s former general manager, have been married for 27 years.
“Over the last 27 years, 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,” the pair said in a joint statement. “We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the most powerful philanthropical endeavors in the world and focuses on health, poverty and education-related causes. Launched in 2000, it’s endowed today for $49.8 billion. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is a third trustee for the company alongside the Gateses.
Bill Gates is recognized as one of the wealthiest people in the world and held the title as the world’s richest person for several years until he was usurped by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who announced in 2019 that he and his wife were parting ways after 25 years of marriage.
The Gateses share a mansion in Medina, Washington, as their primary residence.
Bill Gates came under fire last month when he spoke out against lifting patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines, which many activists have been calling for in the wake of a deadly coronavirus surge in India. Gates said he was concerned that moving production to new factories outside the U.S. would risk a problem in manufacturing, while critics accused him of trying to protect the intellectual property laws he continues to profit from.
The billionaire is also dogged by a relationship he started with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in 2011 after Epstein had served jail time for soliciting prostitution from a minor and was forced to register as a sex offender. The New York Times reported on the details of Gates and Epstein’s relationship in 2019 after Epstein took his own life in prison. Several people familiar with their relationship said Gates went to Epstein’s New York home at least three times and stayed late into the night on at least one occasion.
Prior to the Times’ report, Gates denied any connection with Epstein, who was known for bringing rich and powerful people into his inner circle with the promise of business opportunities.