On May 3, 2021, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates announced they are parting ways after 27 years. “ We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life,” the combined statement read.
The news of Bill and Melinda’s divorce broke the internet. Social media was abuzz with discussions on the impact of the divorce on the stock market, technology innovations, and global poverty.
Today, the Microsoft founder is worth $130.4 billion. He is in the centibillionaire list along with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, and Tesla’s Elon Musk. Bill founded Microsoft in1975. In March last year, he left the company’s board but owns 1.37% (worth around 26 billion) shares.
Melinda has been working for the Gates Foundation and her firm, Pivotal Ventures, started in 2015. The investment and incubation company works on social issues in the US. According to Forbes, if the couple split their fortune equally, Melinda would be worth $65.25 billion.
Also, the couple, along with Warren Buffett, are the founders of The Giving Pledge, a platform for philanthropists who pledge their wealth to charitable causes. Both Bill and Melinda own half of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent almost $53.8 billion on philanthropic causes since its inception in 2000. The foundation has committed $1.75 billion for Covid-19 relief efforts.
Overall, the Gates Foundation has made close to 162 investments, allocating close to 1,869 grants. Some of its latest investments include Avanti Finance, Provivi, CRISPR Therapeutics, and Exscientia. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been actively investing in artificial intelligence projects across sectors, including education, healthcare, sanitation, climate change and other social sectors.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has allocated grants/investments to multiple institutions and companies working in artificial intelligence. Here’s a complete list:
- Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence Foundation (4,990,516)
- Babylon Holdings Limited ($1,263,081)
- Ifakara Health Institute ($100,000)
- Penn State ($200,000)
- University Hospital of Bonn ($100,000)
- IRD Global ($100,000)
- New York University ($100,000)
- Makerere University ($100,000)
- International Potato Center ($100,000)
- Deeper Learning Innovations Private Limited ($100,000)
- Value Spring Technology, Inc. ($100,000)
- Apeel Sciences (N/A)
- Macro-eyes (N/A)
In a joint petition filed at King County Superior Court in Seattle, the couple asserted their legal union was ‘irretrievably broken,’ but said they had reached an agreement on how to divide their marital assets, a report said, adding the foundation would remain intact, and the couple would stay as co-chairs and trustees.
In the coming months, the couple said that they would approve Foundation strategies and draw a clear roadmap for the organisation. Meanwhile, speculations are rife that the billionaire couple might choose to create a different foundation after the divorce settlement. For instance, at Gates Foundation, Bill focuses on climate change and health, while Melinda is more inclined towards issues affecting women.
If the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation splits, it might stall the grants process. Also, there would be a significant change in the advisory and leadership team.
David Callahan, editor of Inside Philanthropy, said that nothing would change with the foundation as it has a professional staff of 1,600 employees handling programs. “To me, the big question is, does Melinda get a sizable divorce settlement? If so, what does she do in terms of forging her path as an independent philanthropist?” Callahan told the Los Angeles Times.
Is this the end of Gates Foundation?
As quoted in the New York Times, a philanthropy scholar said the Bill andvMelinda Gates’ $50 billion endowments could not be split or divided up as a marital asset. According to a Bloomberg report, citing US regulatory filings, Bill’s holding company Cascade Investment recently transferred a total of $2 billion worth of shares to Melinda in the last few days. It includes stocks of Canadian National Railway Co, AutoNation Inc etc.
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Amit Raja Naik is a senior writer at Analytics India Magazine, where he dives deep into the latest technology innovations. He is also a professional bass player.