Bill and Melinda Gates, the leaders of the world’s most venerated and powerful philanthropy, said on Monday that they were getting a divorce — an earthquake moment in the nonprofit sector.
The billionaire couple sets the strategic vision for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which they co-founded and which spends more than $5 billion a year on causes like US education and worldwide disease eradication. Their divorce potentially has enormous implications for their work.
The couple made the surprise announcement in concurrent posts on their personal Twitter pages. In their statement, the Gateses said they would “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.”
A Gates Foundation spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment seeking additional details on how this might affect the Foundation’s work.
The divorce proceedings are sure to be complicated. The Gates family has a net worth approaching $150 billion, and their separation could set records for the largest divorce settlement to date. The largest settlement ever was recorded a few years ago when Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man, finalized a divorce from MacKenzie Scott for about $36 billion.
While a divorce proceeding is typically a private affair, given how important Bill and Melinda Gates are to the world, this separation could have massive consequences for public life.