The foundation will continue without missing a beat The separation comes two years after Bezos’s divorce from MacKenzie Scott, which raised questions over the fate of the Amazon founder’s significant voting stake in his technology company. The Gates separation, by contrast, is likely to have little impact on Microsoft given that Bill Gates, 65, left the software group’s board a year ago and has a stake of about 1 per cent.
In a separate statement, the foundation said the couple would “remain co-chairs and trustees” and that “no changes to their roles or the organisation are planned”. “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the couple said in a statement on Monday. The pair said they “will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives”.
Forbes puts the couple’s wealth at $124bn and lists Bill Gates as the world’s fourth richest person, after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Musk and Bernard Arnault, founder of the Louis Vuitton conglomerate. The pair have ploughed much of their estimated $124bn fortune into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which seeks to enhance healthcare and reduce poverty around the world. Working with Warren Buffett, they also promoted the Giving Pledge as a way for wealthy business people to donate more of their wealth during their lifetimes.
Inside the foundation, divisions have already been established among teams that are aligned with projects Bill is interested in, such as new health technology such as mRNA vaccines, or projects Melinda is interested in, such as gender equality. The pair, known to operate as pragmatists, would likely be motivated to keep the foundation from fracturing so as not to dilute their overall influence, the person said. A person with knowledge of the Gates Foundation expects that Bill and Melinda will both remain very involved with the foundation’s day-to-day operations, and that things will stay mostly status quo.
The Seattle-based Gates Foundation has established itself as one of the world’s most influential philanthropies, with a focus on fighting poverty, disease and inequality that stretches from sub-Saharan Africa to inner-city America. For the past two decades, the couple have run the world’s largest private charitable foundation, which has distributed $55bn since its launch in 2000. Its endowment, which includes annual donations from Buffett, stands at $49.8bn.
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