Bill and Melinda Gates divorce: No prenup, world’s most expensive splits revealed

Bill Gates and his wife Melinda announced that they are to divorce after 27 years of marriage, with court documents revealing they didn’t have a prenup in place.

The 65-year-old Microsoft founder’s wife filed the divorce documents on May 3, citing a broken relationship as the reason for the split.

The couple announced the groundbreaking split online, saying while they can continue working together, they cannot grow as a couple.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work, we have made the decision to end our marriage. 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,” the couple said in a joint statement.

“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue to work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

The divorce is now the most expensive in the world, coming in at an estimated cost of $127b.

While their joint statement on Twitter sounded harmonious, the divorce documents reveal their marriage is “broken” and irreversible.

Melinda filed the documents, citing the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.

“This marriage is irretrievably broken. We ask the court to dissolve our marriage and find that our marital community ended on the date stated in our separation contract,” the court document read.

The divorce documents make it clear there was no prenup.

According to the filing, the only written agreement that they say pertains to the divorce is the separation agreement.

Additionally, Melinda, 56, will not request spousal support.

According to Forbes, Bill boasts an astounding net worth of $130.5 billion dollars, while Celebrity Net Worth puts the number at $146 billion.

The couple are the fourth-richest people in the world, behind Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bernard Arnault.

Gates is also the biggest private owner of farmland in the United States, with 242,000 acres across 18 different states.

They have homes in five states, a fleet of cars including a rare $2 million Porsche; an art collection that includes the $30 million Da Vinci Codex that Gates bought at auction; and a series of private jets.

The couple met in 1987 with Melinda appointed General Manager of Information Products for Microsoft.

They married in Hawaii in 1994 before Melinda left Microsoft in 1996 to focus on starting their family. The couple has three grown-up children.

While their divorce comes as a shock to many, it’s not the first time mega-rich couples have seen their fortunes and marriage end in divorce.\

Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie split in 2019, with MacKenzie getting an estimated $38b.


1. Jeff Bezos’s divorce in 2019 from MacKenzie Bezos – $38 billion

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the world’s richest man, paid $38bn (NZ$56.53 billion) to settle the divorce with his wife of nearly 26 years, MacKenzie Bezos in 2019.

“After a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” they said at the time.

MacKenzie Scott has since remarried and now focuses on her own philanthropy. She received a 4 per cent stake in Amazon, worth more than US$36 billion.

2. Alec Wildenstein’s 1999 divorce from Jocelyn Wildenstein – $3.8 billion

Alec Wildenstein was an American billionaire businessman, art dealer, racehorse owner, and breeder.

In 2001, Wildenstein inherited half of his father’s business empire estimated at US$10 billion and included what was believed to be the world’s largest private collection of major works of art.

Their divorce proceedings between 1997 and 1999 gained wide media coverage for revelations about the couple’s extravagant spending habits and Jocelyn Wildenstein’s fondness for plastic surgery.

Alec Wildenstein died of cancer in 2008 at the age of 67. He was the heir to one of the richest families in the art world.

3. Rupert Murdoch’s divorce in 1999 from Anna – $1.7 billion

After a marriage of 32 years and three children together, the couple split up in 1999.

Under the settlement, $1.7 billion of Rupert’s fortune (which included $110 million in cash) went to Anna.

A mere 17 days after the divorce was finalised, Rupert wed Wendi Deng, 38 years his junior, while Anna married investor William Mann several months later.

4. Bernie Ecclestone’s divorce in 2009 from Slavica – $1.2 billion

Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone divorced from his second wife Slavica.

While most billionaires might be fearful of having to split their wealth, Ecclestone benefited from the divorce.

Documents show that since his divorce in 2009 he has received US$500 million ($540 million) from his ex-wife’s trust fund.

In a highly unusual divorce settlement, rather than Ecclestone paying Slavica Ecclestone a good chunk of his fortune, she appears to be paying him at the rate of US$100 million a year.

He was married to Slavica for 24 years until their divorce in 2009 on the grounds of his “unreasonable behaviour”. He married his third wife, Fabiana Flosi, 36, in 2012.

5. Steve Wynn’s divorce in 2010 from Elaine; estimated at $1 billion

6. Harold Hamm’s divorce in 2012 from Sue Ann Arnall; estimated at $974.8 million

7. Adnan Khashoggi’s divorce in 1980 after 20 years from Soraya Khashoggi; estimated at $874 million

8. Tiger Woods’ divorce in 2010 from Elin Nordegren – $710 million

The golfing legend and his Swedish wife divorced in 2010 following a torrid sex scandal that engulfed Woods and saw his career stumble.

Woods lost $35 million in sponsorship revenue as his private life unravelled over allegations that surfaced about affairs between him and several women.

The revelations surfaced after a bizarre middle-of-the-night car accident at the couple’s luxury Florida home where Woods crashed into a tree and a fire hydrant. Nordegren told police she smashed the car’s back window with a golf club to get him out.

At the time he was the world’s wealthiest sports star worth more than a billion dollars.

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