The Microsoft co-founder and his wife got married in 1994.
On January 1, 1994, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former general manager at Microsoft, Melinda Ann French exchanged vows on the Hawaiian island of Lanai. The 65-year-old billionaire and the 56-year-old philanthropist went on to raise three beautiful children together: son Rory John, 21, and daughters Phoebe Adele, 18, and Jennifer Katharine, 25. Together, they also run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was founded in 2000. It is now worth over $40 billion.
However, they are now heading their separate ways, 27 years after saying "I Do", as they believe they cannot grow together as a couple anymore, according to PEOPLE. On Monday, May 3, Bill Gates shared a joint statement on Twitter about their decision to end their marriage of nearly three decades. "After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage. 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," they said.
"We continue to share a belief in that mission and 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. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life," they concluded in the statement.
Melinda's first job out of Duke University was at Microsoft, a start-up back then. “I came out and interviewed with Microsoft. And I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh. I have to work at this company. They are changing the world. And if I get an offer, there’s no way I’m not going to take it.’” During an interview with CBS News, Melinda revealed marrying the CEO of the company was "never the plan."
“I met her at a New York City sales meeting,” Bill Gates had said. “And then it was only a week or so after that, that I went up to her in the parking lot and asked if she wanted to go out.” Melinda truly wasn't prepared to go on a date with the man who would go on to become her husband. “When we met, and Bill is CEO of Microsoft and I was, you know, all of 23, he actually, at that first date, asked me out for two weeks from Saturday night. And I said, ‘Two weeks from Saturday night? How could you possibly know what you’re doing? My schedule doesn’t go out that far.’”
Seven years after their first date, they got married. Along with their family, the two also grew and nurtured their foundation with a great deal of love and affection. The foundation—one of the largest private charities in the world—has given away over $36 billion, reports Reuters. Back in 2017, Melinda said, “It’s absolutely a partnership of equals. It’s important to both of us that the world understands that we are running this place together. This is our joint values being played out in the world.”
Then, in 2018, she told PEOPLE, "We lead this organization together—the goals, the people we hire, the values we set—we enjoy doing that together. Bill is the first person I want to talk to when I get back from being out in the field. We sharpen each other's thinking."
Melinda also founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women and families, in 2015, per BBC. "The world is finally waking up to the fact that none of us can move forward when half of us are held back," she said at the time. "The data is clear: empowered women transform societies."
The financial details of their split are still unknown, but a separation agreement filed in King County Superior Court hints that they are seeking a division of joint assets.
Cover Image Source: Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images