Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of one of the world’s largest private charitable foundations, filed for divorce on Monday after 27 years of marriage but pledged to continue their philanthropic work together.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health, spending more than $50 billion over the past two decades to bring a business approach to combating poverty and disease.
The Gates have backed widely praised programs in malaria and polio eradication, child nutrition and vaccines. The foundation last year committed some $1.75 billion to COVID-19 relief.
In a joint petition for dissolution of marriage, the couple asserted their legal union was “irretrievably broken,” but said they had reached agreement on how to divide their marital assets. No details of that accord were disclosed in the filing in King County Superior Court in Seattle.
Bill Gates, 65, who co-founded Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), and his spouse, Melinda French Gates, 56, met after she joined the software giant as a product manager, and they dated for a few years before marrying in January 1994 in Hawaii.
“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 joint statement posted on each of their individual Twitter accounts.
“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,” they said.
The divorce petition, which states that the couple have no minor children, comes after the youngest of their three offspring recently turned 18.
Launched in 2000, the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks as the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one of the world’s biggest, with net assets of $43.3 billion at the end of 2019, according to the latest full-year financials shown on its website.
From 1994 through 2018, the couple gifted more than $36 billion to the Seattle-based foundation, the website said.
Last year, investor Warren Buffett reported donating more than $2 billion of stock from his Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) to the Gates Foundation as part of previously announced plans to give away his entire fortune before his death.
‘NO CHANGES TO THEIR ROLES’
In their divorce petition, the couple asks the court “to dissolve our marriage” and to divide their communal property, business interests and liabilities “as set forth in our separation contract,” though that accord was not made public.
Bill Gates is ranked No. 4 on the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, with an estimated $124 billion fortune.
In a separate statement, the Gates Foundation said the couple would remain as co-chairs and trustees of the organization.
“They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction,” the foundation’s statement said.
The split comes two years after another leading Seattle-based billionaire and philanthropist, Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos, said that he and his then-wife, MacKenzie, were getting divorced.
At least one critic of billionaire benefactors cited the Gates’ split as a cautionary tale in the wisdom of concentrating so much sway over global humanitarian issues under the control of super-wealthy individuals.
“The Gates divorce will do more than upend a family’s life. It will ramify into the worlds of business, education, public health, civil society, philanthropy, and beyond,” Anand Giridharadas, author of the book “Winners Take All” told Reuters.
“That is because our society has made the colossal error of allowing wealth to purchase the chance to make quasi-governmental decisions as a private citizen,” he said.
Gates dropped out of Harvard University to start Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49% of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multimillionaire. With Microsoft’s explosive growth, he soon became one of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
After an executive tenure in which he helped transform the company into one of the world’s leading technology firms, Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 and left the company’s board in March 2020.
Known in the technology industry as an acerbic and ruthless competitor, Gates drew the ire of rivals and eventually the U.S. government for Microsoft’s business practices.
The software giant was convicted of antitrust violations in the late 1990s. But the verdict was overturned on appeal, and the company then settled the case out of court.
Gates’ public persona softened into an avuncular elder statesman as he turned his attention to philanthropy, and he has largely steered clear of the many controversies currently roiling the technology business.
Melinda French Gates, who recently added her maiden name on most of her websites and social media, was raised in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University before joining Microsoft.
In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women and families, and in 2019 published a book, “The Moment of Lift”, centered on female empowerment.
Justice Department seeks to unseal search warrants of Trump’s home
US federal agents were looking for documents relating to nuclear weapons when they raided former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida this week, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
It was not clear if such documents were recovered at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, the Post said. Reuters could not immediately confirm the report, Reuters reported.
The U.S. Justice Department asked a judge on Thursday to make public the warrant that authorized the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, after Trump, a Republican, portrayed it as political retribution.
The request means the public could soon learn more about what investigators were looking for during the unprecedented search of a former president’s home.
The search was part of an investigation into whether Trump illegally removed records from the White House as he left office in January 2021, some of which the Justice Department believes are classified.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, the top law enforcement officer and an appointee of Democratic President Joe Biden, told a news conference that he had personally approved the search. The Justice Department also seeks to make public a redacted receipt of the items seized.
“The department does not take such a decision lightly. Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken,” Garland said.
His decision to publicly confirm the search was highly unusual. U.S. law enforcement officials typically do not discuss ongoing investigations in order to protect people’s rights. In this case, Trump himself announced the search in a Monday night statement.
Garland said the Justice Department made the request to make public the warrant “in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter.”
A source familiar with the matter said the FBI retrieved about 10 boxes from Trump’s property during the search.
Trump was not in Florida at the time of the search.
Late on Thursday, Trump called for the immediate release of documents related to the search.
“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents, even though they have been drawn up by radical left Democrats and possible future political opponents, who have a strong and powerful vested interest in attacking me, much as they have done for the last 6 years,” he said on his Truth Social platform.
Saudi Arabia, US prepare for bilateral Native Fury 22 drill in Yanbu, Al-Kharj
Saudi and US marine corps arrived in Yanbu on Tuesday ahead of the planned bilateral Native Fury 22 drill maneuvers, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The exercises are set to take place this week in Yanbu and Al-Kharj and will last for several days, according to SPA.
The drills are aimed at enhancing the partnership between Saudi forces and their US counterparts when carrying out bilateral plans, SPA said.
FBI searches Trump’s Florida home as part of presidential records probe
Former US president Donald Trump said FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday and broke into his safe in what his son acknowledged was part of an investigation into Trump’s removal of official presidential records from the White House to his Florida resort.
The unprecedented search of a former president’s home would mark a significant escalation into the records investigation, which is one of several probes Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business.
The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on the search, which Trump in a statement called a raid and said involved a “large group of FBI agents.” The FBI’s headquarters in Washington and its field office in Miami both declined comment, Reuters reported.
Eric Trump, one of the former president’s adult children, told Fox News the search concerned boxes of documents that Trump brought with him from the White House, and that his father has been cooperating with the National Archives on the matter for months.
A source familiar with the matter also confirmed to Reuters the raid appeared to be tied to Trump’s removal of classified records from the White House.
“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said, adding: “They even broke into my safe!”
Trump was not present at the time as he was in New York on Monday, Fox News Digital reported, publishing a photo of Trump that a Fox reporter said showed him leaving Trump Tower.
Trump, who has made his club in Palm Beach his home since leaving the White House in January 2021, has generally spent summers at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, because Mar-a-Lago typically closes for the summer.
A federal law called the U.S. Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.
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