Bill Gates transferred $1.8billion in stock to his wife Melinda the day they announced their divorce in what appears to be the first of many public transactions the pair will make as they start to divide up their extraordinary assets.
The Microsoft founder is the fourth richest man in the world with an estimated fortune of $130billion. He and Melinda have been married for 27 years and have three adult children, but announced in a joint statement on Monday they were parting ways.
She said in court filings that the marriage was ‘irretrievably broken’.
The pair’s divorce settlement hasn’t been finalized in court but they have agreed on a some of the terms of their separation. It’s likely that the pair will settle privately, and that the only glimpses into their division of assets will come from SEC filings about how many shares they own in public companies.
On Monday, one such filing revealed that Bill gave Melinda more than 14million shares of the Canadian National Railway Company worth $1.5billion. He also gave her 2.9 million shares of AutoNation.
The shares were transferred from Cascade Investment LLC, an investment company controlled by Gates. Bill has hired 97-year-old billionaire lawyer Charlie T Munger to represent him in the divorce.
On Monday, one such filing revealed that Bill gave Melinda more than 14million shares of the Canadian National Railway Company worth $1.5billion. He also gave her 2.9 million shares of AutoNation
The two companies Bill has given Melinda stock in this week are Canadian National Railway and AutoNation. They are a drop in the bucket of what she is likely to receive in their division of $130bn in assets
He knew Munger from their time at Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s holding company, where Bill served on the board for 16 years and where Munger remains Vice Chairman.
Munger’s expertise is not in family law but in business.
Melinda has also hired a powerhouse batch of attorneys to represent her.
What specifically prompted their divorce is unclear. Melinda has previously described Bill’s hesitancy over getting married in the early 1990s.
In her petition for divorce, Melinda says spousal support is ‘not needed’ – meaning she won’t seek regular payments from Bill but take a settlement which is likely to be privately negotiated, if it hasn’t already been decided upon.
Lawyers are shocked there was no prenup, given Bill had already made his first billion dollars at the age of 31 in 1987 – the same year he met Melinda. Now, their myriad assets are up for grabs.
The couple met in 1987 – the same year Bill became the world’s youngest billionaire at the age of 31 – married in Hawaii in 1994, and have three children together: Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe 18.
They also established the world’s largest charitable foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in 2000 which has contributed more than $50billion to causes including eradicating polio and malaria. The foundation has also been a major investor in coronavirus treatments.
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 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
In a joint statement posted to their Twitter accounts on Monday, the pair said their work with the foundation will continue but their marriage will not, adding: ‘We no longer feel we are able to grow as a couple in this next phase of our lives.’
While the couple 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 obtained by DailyMail.com, came to light after the couple’s eldest daughter revealed their family has been going through a ‘challenging stretch of time’.
Jennifer Gates, 25, spoke out about the divorce announcement on Instagram on Monday afternoon, writing: ‘I’m still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as my family members at this time and am grateful for the space to do so.’
The 65-year-old Microsoft founder and his 56-year-old wife shared the news with identical statements on Twitter (pictured)