by Kevin Coupe
Bill and Melinda Gates, who together used his Microsoft fortune to build The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of $50 billion and has had an enormous global impact in areas that include public health and early childhood education, announced yesterday that they are divorcing after 27 years of marriage.
They said in a statement that they plan to continue running the foundation together, but that "after a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage."
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world, with an estimated net worth of about $124 billion.
Now, I recognize that this is technically not a business story that falls within MNB's purview. Though, to be fair, there is a component to this that could have repercussions throughout society and business. The New York Times reports that Melinda Gates ":already has her own firm, Pivotal Ventures, which she has used to invest in issues related to women’s economic empowerment … Should she receive a portion of Mr. Gates’s Microsoft holdings, she could set up a new foundation or make direct gifts to other causes she supports."
Some of the coverage of the breakup suggests that left to her own devices, Melinda Gates might actually be a more progressive and activist investor, following a path taken in recent months by the likes of MacKenzie Scott after her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
It all is speculation, of course. We have no more knowledge about how the Gates' divorce will play out across their various interests than we do about the circumstances that led to the breakup.
I just know this (and since this is my soapbox, I get to use it): When the news of the Gates' divorce broke yesterday, it was an an Eye-Opener. And somehow, because of the impact they've had and the enormous good they've done together, almost ineffably sad.