Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates, who filed for divorce on Monday after 27 years of marriage, have reportedly prepared their separation contract on how to deal with their property and assets before announcing their divorce.
According to documents obtained by a number of US media outlets, the divorce petition of the couple at a court in Seattle states, "This marriage is irretrievably broken…We ask the court to dissolve our marriage."
In their divorce petition, the couple asks the court "to dissolve our marriage" and to divide their communal property, business interests and liabilities "as set forth in our separation contract," though that accord was not made public.
However, they did not sign a pre-nuptial agreement before their wedding in 1994, BBC reported.
Bill Gates is ranked No. 4 on the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest individuals, with an estimated $124 billion fortune. The couple's estate is believed to include multi-million dollar properties in Washington, Florida and Wyoming. Their main residence is a lakeside mansion in Medina, Washington that is reported to be worth at least $127m.
The couple runs the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one of the world's biggest - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - with net assets of $43.3 billion at the end of 2019, according to the latest full-year financials shown on its website.
From 1994 through 2018, the couple gifted more than $36 billion to the Seattle-based foundation, the website said. Last year, investor Warren Buffett reported donating more than $2 billion of stock from his Berkshire Hathaway Inc to the Gates Foundation as part of previously announced plans to give away his entire fortune before his death.
In a separate statement, the Gates Foundation said the couple would remain as co-chairs and trustees of the organization.
"They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation's issues, and set the organization's overall direction," the foundation's statement said.
Bill and Melinda announced their split after 27 years of marriage in a joint statement to Twitter that said they "no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives."
"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," they said in the statement. "Over the last 27 years, 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."
The divorce petition, which states that the couple has no minor children, comes after the youngest of their three offspring recently turned 18.
Jennifer Katharine Gates, 25, the oldest of her siblings, wrote in a statement that it has "been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family."
"I'm still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as family members at this time," she wrote.
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard University to start Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49% of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multimillionaire. With Microsoft's explosive growth, he soon became one of the world's wealthiest individuals.
After an executive tenure in which he helped transform the company into one of the world's leading technology firms, Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 and left the company's board in March 2020.
Known in the technology industry as an acerbic and ruthless competitor, Gates drew the ire of rivals and eventually the U.S. government for Microsoft's business practices.
The software giant was convicted of antitrust violations in the late 1990s. But the verdict was overturned on appeal, and the company then settled the case out of court.
Gates' public persona softened into an avuncular elder statesman as he turned his attention to philanthropy, and he has largely steered clear of the many controversies currently roiling the technology business.
Melinda French Gates, who recently added her maiden name on most of her websites and social media, was raised in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University before joining Microsoft.
In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women and families, and in 2019 published a book, "The Moment of Lift", centered on female empowerment.