There is no easy way to announce a divorce most especially if it involves the fourth richest man in the world today. When Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill Gates announced on Monday that he and his wife Melinda are divorcing after 27 years of marriage, most of the world could barely believe it. Two pressing questions circulated online: what caused the divorce and what will happen to the couple’s over $130 billion wealth.
“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 post on Twitter. “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.”
As can be expected, news of Bill Gates’ past relationship and a possible third party circulated the news a few days after the divorce was announced. People are simply curious as to what triggered the decision, and almost everyone has an opinion about the turn of events. A report revealed that Bill used to take annual beach vacations in North Carolina with his ex-girlfriend Ann Winblad even after he married Melinda in 1994. Interestingly, the yearly activity was something that Melinda was well aware of. As to whether or not she openly supported it is unknown to the public.
Ann is a software entrepreneur and venture capitalist who dated Bill Gates in the 1980s. According to a TIME article, the two first met in the 1984 Ben Rosen-Esther Dyson computer conference. The two would go on what people would consider virtual dates today as they would watch the same movie at the same time while they were in separate cities and talk about it on their cell phones.
The most recent theory that made headlines is the possibility that Bill Gates’ interpreter Zhe “Shelly” Wang is the cause of the divorce. Shelly works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has been with the organization since 2015. To defend herself, the 36-year-old interpreter took to social media to deny the accusations hurled against her, claiming that she has nothing to do with the couple’s decision to get a divorce.
Shelly became an interpreter in September 2012, working for Monterey Institute of International Studies. She also worked on several TED Conferences and joined as an interpreter in April 2013. She headed a team composed of interpreters who translated TED events into French, German, Russian, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Shelly also works as an interpreter for Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management.
Melinda filed her petition last Monday in Washington state’s King County Superior Court. The 56-year-old petitioner is being represented by lawyers at Paul Weiss, while Bill Gates is being represented by divorce lawyers at Munger Tolles & Olson. While the two do not have a prenuptial agreement, they did maintain a separation agreement. Melinda’s petition asks the court to divide their properties according to what was stipulated in the agreement. There is also nothing in the petition that asks for ongoing spousal support.
Whatever their irreconcilable differences may be, it is apparent that Bill and Melinda have every intention to settle their divorce peacefully and amicably. Despite the sad turn of events, the two have agreed that they will continue to work together to advance the Gates Foundation initiatives.