For decades, Bill and Melinda Gates agreed that the Microsoft boss could spend a long weekend at the beach with his venture capital ex-girlfriend every year.
The strange arrangement raises eyebrows after one of the richest couples in the world went their separate ways after 27 years together and built a fortune of $ 130 billion.
65-year-old Bill and 70-year-old venture capitalist Ann Winblad hailed from the 80s but separated in 1987, the same year he met future wife Melinda. Ann was reportedly more ready for marriage than Bill as he worked day and night building his multi-billion dollar Microsoft empire.
The couple did maintain a friendship, however, and in a 1997 article in TIME Magazine, Bill said, “When I was thinking about marrying Melinda on my own, I called Ann and asked for her consent.”
She agreed, and the former lovers – with Melinda’s blessing – kept their annual vacation alive, with Bill spending a long weekend with Ann at her beach house on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
The two of them spend their holidays every spring with dune buggies, hang gliding and walks on the beach.
Bill Gates dated 70-year-old venture capitalist Ann Winblad in the 80s but broke up in 1987, the same year he met future wife Melinda
Bill and Melinda Gates announced their split on Monday after 27 years of marriage
The 65-year-old Microsoft founder and his 56-year-old wife shared the news with identical statements on Twitter
“We can play putt-putt while discussing biotechnology,” Bill said in a 1997 interview.
Ann was reportedly more ready for marriage than Bill as he worked day and night building his multi-billion dollar Microsoft empire
Ann said, “We share our thoughts about the world and ourselves. And we wonder how, as two young high-flyers, we began a great adventure on the edge of a little known industry and it brought us to the center of an amazing universe. ‘
Bill and Ann first met in 1984 at a Ben Rosen-Esther Dyson computer conference.
While in different cities, they started “virtual dating” by watching the same movie and talking about it on their phones at the same time. She even convinced him not to eat meat for a short time.
They split three years later, but the TIME Magazine article quoted Ann and told Bill that Melinda “would be a good match for him because she had intellectual stamina”.
The couple even got into business together, and in 1999 Bill partnered with Ann at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.
Bill and Melinda posted the same joint statement on their divorce on Twitter Monday, which read: “After much thought and work, we made the decision to end our marriage.
“In the past 27 years we raised three incredible children and started a foundation that works around the world to help everyone live healthy and productive lives.
“We continue to share faith in this mission and will continue to work together on the Foundation, but we no longer believe that we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our families as we begin to find our way in this new life. ‘
In papers filed in Washington state, Melinda, 56, described their relationship as “irrevocably broken”.
Bill and Ann first met in 1984 at a Ben Rosen-Esther Dyson computer conference. While in different cities, they started “virtual dating” by watching the same movie and talking about it on their phones at the same time. She even convinced him not to eat meat anymore. Ann is pictured in 1984
Bill made his first billion in 1987 and became the youngest billionaire ever. He was 31. He founded Microsoft in 1975. Melinda joined the company that year. He is shown on the left in 1985 at the age of 29 and she is shown on the right in 1995, one year after they were married
The couple’s eldest daughter, 25-year-old Jennifer Gates, has spoken publicly on social media about the “challenging stretch” the family recently experienced. Neither of her other two adult children commented.
No further details were released about why the couple split, but court records indicate that the couple had not entered into a nuptial agreement when they married in 1994 – and put their $ 130 billion fortune at the center of the split.
In the divorce petition filed Monday in the Washington Supreme Court – King County, Melinda asked the judge to dissolve the marriage “on the date specified in our separation agreement.” The separation agreement was not included in the filing so the date is unclear.
Melinda says in the petition that spousal support is “not needed” – meaning she does not ask for regular payments from Bill, but instead reaches an agreement that will likely be privately negotiated if that has not been decided.
Lawyers are shocked that there was no preparation, as Bill had made his first billion dollars back in 1987 at the age of 31 – the same year he met Melinda. Now their myriad assets are up for grabs.
While the couple made no arrangements, it appears that much of the breakdown of their estate – which includes real estate across five states, a private jet, an amazing art collection, and a fleet of luxury cars – was already carried out when divorce papers refer to repeated a “separation agreement” that they both signed. The contract itself was not published.
Melinda filed for divorce from Bill in the Washington King County Supreme Court on Monday. In the petition (pictured), she described her marriage as “irretrievably broken”.
The couple is pictured during a Zoom appearance on April 19 on One World: Together At Home, a program broadcast specifically to support healthcare workers
The announcement will be made virtually less than two weeks after their last public appearance at a COVID event for healthcare workers.
Bill was already a billionaire whom he married to Melinda in the early 1990s.
He founded Microsoft in 1975 and became the youngest billionaire in the world in 1987 at the age of 31. That year he met Melinda while she was working at the company where he was CEO.
They married six years later, but he pondered and even made a list of pros and cons for marriage on a whiteboard based on previous interviews with Melinda.
In 2000, they created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – the most influential private foundation valued at nearly $ 50 billion.
For the past year, the foundation has focused on developing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
By December, the foundation had allocated a total of $ 1.75 billion to the global pandemic.
In their statement on Monday, the Gates vowed to continue this collaboration after their split.
The reason for their split after over a quarter of a century remains a mystery, but Melinda has previously suggested that her husband struggled to balance work and family.
Bill and Melinda Gates signed a separation agreement – but what is it?
In their divorce, Bill and Melinda Gates make it clear that they have no marriage agreement – but the papers repeatedly refer to a “separation agreement” that divides their estate.
A separation contract or arrangement is a legally binding document drawn up by divorced couples prior to their separation, in which they agree on how they should divide their lives – including custody and access to children, debts, and property.
It is subject to contract law, meaning either party can sue the other party for breach of contract if the agreement is broken.
By signing a separation agreement, a couple can amicably split up their assets instead of going to court.
For the average couple, this means saving money on legal fees. Bill and Melinda Gates avoid a lengthy public trial that would reveal details about their personal lives and assets.
However, a separation agreement is not necessarily final and a judge can override it if he believes the contract is unfair to the children concerned, is unfair to either partner, or that one partner does not have their shared property or income fully disclosed.