Bill Gates and Melinda attend the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley. File / AFP
Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates have decided to seek a divorce following 27 years of marriage, the couple said on Monday in a joint announcement that rocked the philanthropic world.
One of the world's wealthiest couples — with a joint fortune estimated at $130 billion — the Gates have channeled billions into charitable work around the globe via their hugely influential foundation.
In announcing their split on Twitter, the couple said they would continue their joint work on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds programmes in global health, gender equality, education and other causes.
"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 wrote.
The announcement comes two years after the divorce of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, another of the world's wealthiest people, and his wife MacKenzie.
Financial details of the decision were not immediately clear. The couple have three children. The two are listed as co-chairs and trustees of their nonprofit, Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was launched in 2000.
The foundation ended 2019 with net assets of $43.3 billion, according to the latest full-year financials disclosed on its website.
From 1994 through 2018, Bill Gates, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, have provided gifts of more than $36 billion to the foundation, the website said.
The foundation has focused its attention on public health, education and climate changes, with donations ranging from support of the makers of vaccines, diagnostic tests and potential medical treatments for the coronavirus pandemic to the development of solar-powered toilets.
Met at Microsoft
Bill Gates was a geeky teenager when he started what would become the world's most valuable company, and was for a time the world's richest man and most prominent philanthropist.
He stepped down as Microsoft chief executive in 2008 to devote more time to philanthropy and later left the board, keeping only the title of "founder and technology advisor."
Bill Gates shares the stage with Melinda during the 123rd Stanford commencement ceremony in California. File / AFP
Melinda Gates met Bill at Microsoft in 1987, shortly after she joined the tech firm, and the pair married in 1994. Their foundation is among the world's richest, having provided more than $54 billion in grants over two decades in areas including malaria and infectious disease control, agricultural research, basic health care and sanitation in various parts of the world. It has an endowment of more than $46 billion.
The couple's divorce could create new questions about their wealth, most of which has yet to be donated to their foundation, despite co-creating the Giving Pledge, which encourages Billionaires to give the majority of their wealth to charity.
In recent years, Bill Gates has largely distanced himself from Microsoft and the tech industry, instead speaking about poverty and health initiatives, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, the foundation pledged some $250 million to help fight the pandemic, with some of the funds channeled to the distribution of life-saving doses of COVID-19 vaccines to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Gates, who had been warning as early as 2015 about the potential dangers of a global pandemic, became the target of conspiracy theorists who claimed he knew in advance about Covid-19.
The split comes following the high-profile divorce of Bezos, whose ex-wife took the name MacKenzie Scott and promptly began giving away billions to various causes without setting up a conventional foundation.
Agence France-Presse/ Reuters
Gates, a billionaire who stepped down as chairman of Microsoft Corp in 2014, has through his philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed at least $1.75 billion to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes support for some makers of vaccines,
The Gates Foundation's latest contribution, its largest till date, comes on top of the $70 million funding that it added in November. This brings its total commitments to the global pandemic response to $1.75 billion, the foundation said.
"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the two said in a statement posted by Bill Gates' Twitter account.
According to the statement, the prayer spots will be opened 30 minutes before prayer and will be closed instantly after it, while the women's prayer places will be closed until further notice.
A team of Tibetan mountaineering guides will set up the separation line at the peak before climbers attempt to reach the summit from the Chinese side, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
It was not clear what the separation line would be made of.
Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sputnik vaccines are provided at approved centres across the UAE.