Bill and Melinda Gates said in a joint statement on Monday that they are ending their marriage.
The pair, who launched the world's largest private charitable foundation, said they would continue to work together at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation, which has an endowment worth nearly $50 billion US, has focused on global health and development and U.S. education issues since incorporating in 2000.
In identical tweets, they said they had made the decision to end their marriage of 27 years. The financial details of the decision were not immediately clear.
"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," they said in a statement. "We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life."
Last year, Bill Gates — co-founder of software giant Microsoft — said he was stepping down from Microsoft's board to focus on philanthropy.
He was Microsoft's CEO until 2000 and since then has gradually scaled back his involvement in the company he co-founded with Paul Allen in 1975. He transitioned out of a day-to-day role in Microsoft in 2008 and served as chairman of the board until 2014.
Supporter of vaccine makers' intellectual property rights
As the public face of the foundation's COVID-19 grants and advocacy work, Bill Gates has come under fire for being a staunch supporter of intellectual property rights for vaccine makers. While the tech icon says protecting the shots' recipes will ensure incentives for research and development, critics claim that mentality hampers supply in favour of drug company profits.
Bill Gates was formerly the world's richest person, and his fortune is estimated at well over $100 billion. How the couple end up settling their estate and any impact on the foundation will be closely watched — especially after another high-profile Seattle-area billionaire couple recently ended their marriage.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott finalized their divorce in 2019. Scott has since remarried and now focuses on her own philanthropy after receiving a four-per-cent stake in Amazon, worth more than $36 billion.
Bill and Melinda Gates were married in 1994 in Hawaii. They met after she began working at Microsoft as a product manager in 1987.
In her 2019 memoir, T, Melinda Gates wrote about her childhood, life and private struggles as the wife of a public icon and stay-at-home mom with three kids. She won Bill Gates's heart after meeting at a work dinner, sharing a mutual love of puzzles and beating him at a math game.
With files from Reuters
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