By Chimezie Nebolisa
AFTER twenty-seven (27) years of blissful marriage, Bill and Melinda Gates have decided to call it quit. In a joint tweet, the powerful, very rich couple tweeted, “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple. After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.”
The couple first met in 1987, when Melinda joined Bill’s Microsoft as a product manager. The pair would later tie the knot in 1994 on the Hawaiian island of Lanai and together they have three children, who are between the ages of 18-25.
Bill Gates, according to Forbes, is the fourth wealthiest man on the planet, with a net worth of about $124 billion (£89b). Vast majority of his wealth comes from the 1.3% shares he owns in Microsoft, a technological firm which he co-founded. Melinda on the other hand, owns Pivotal Ventures, an investment company with focus on women and families, founded in 2015.
Reacting to the new development on her Instagram page, Jessica, the 25 years old daughter of the Gates wrote, “It’s been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family. I’m still learning how to best support my own process and emotions”.
Since the couple announced their intending separation on twitter, analysts and the public in general are dissecting, putting ones and twos together to ascertain the implications of this new development on the Gates, their family, the business world where their influence is huge and especially on the Bill and Melinda Gates (BMG) Foundation – one of the biggest philanthropic organization in the world. Many have likened their divorce to that of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and world wealthiest man who separated from his longtime wife, McKenzie Scott in 2019.
However, Bill and Melinda through a shared tweet, have assured that despite their impending separation, they will continue to work together to keep the foundation and its activities alive. The statement which they shared on twitter, states:
“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, we continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but 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.”
Implications for BMG Foundation
Launched in the year 2000, in Seattle, Washington, the BMG Foundation is the world’s largest private foundation with a total asset of over $49billion. The foundation has its primary focus on healthcare, reduction of extreme poverty, expansion of education opportunities and information technology across the globe.
BMG Foundation has also progressed in addressing other vital global problems such as climate change, reduction of hunger, disease and inequality. Since its inception, the organisation has spent and donated billions of dollars in a spirited fight against infectious diseases and vaccination of children.
2009 through 2015, the foundation gave its grants to organisations such as GAVI Alliance, World Health Organisation, The Global Funds to fight HIV/ AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, The Rotary Foundation, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle-East and South-East Asia. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as at 2018, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has committed about $4billion to development.
In partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, BMG Foundation formed the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa which strives towards the enhancement of agricultural science and small-farm productivity in Africa and to whose course the organisation has donated an initial sum of $100million. It is through the foundations financial assistance of $168million to Program for Appropriate Technology in Health Malaria Vaccine Initiative (PATH-MVI), that the Oxford university made a breakthrough in her malaria vaccine trial with 77% efficacy. The foundation is also a major donor to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which led the fight in eradication of polio in Africa.
The success of the foundation is majorly due to the donation the co-chairs, Bill and Melinda Gates who continue to give a large chunk of their wealth to the organisation. Since its launch, the couple has committed about $50billion to the organisation’s cause.
The couple has been described by the New York Times, as two of the richest people who reshaped philanthropy and public health. In same vein, the Gates with Warren Buffet formed ‘The Giving Pledge’, an initiative in which wealthy individuals are encouraged to donate at least 50 per cent of their wealth to charitable causes.
Also in the fight against coronavirus virus, the couple has donated $1.7billion to COVAX, an initiative of World Health Organisation which aims to procure COVID vaccine for ninety-two countries of the third world.
Due to the fact that most of their donations to the foundation come from Bill’s earnings from Microsoft, concern have been raised about the foundation’s sustenance after the divorce. More so, the financial details of their separation and the structure of their finances thereafter is yet to be known.
Rob Reich, a professor of political science at Stanford University, USA fears that the divorce will have grave consequences on the BMG Foundation. His view: “The Gates Foundation is the most important and influential philanthropic entity in the world today, the divorce may have huge repercussions for the foundation and for its work across the globe.”
Following the couple’s statement on their divorce, the BMG foundation equally made a statement, stating that the couple will continue to co-chair the organisation and her trustees and no changes were to be expected. Also, in an email addressed to the foundation’s staff CEO, Mark Suzman, explained that Bill and Melinda are still committed to the organisation’s goals.
“While this is obviously a difficult time of personal change for our co-chairs, together they have assured me of their continued commitment to the foundation that they have worked so hard to build together over the past 20 years,” he wrote.
Whether the divorce bodes grave consequence on the Foundation, the couple alone or both continue to stay faithful to the foundation’s cause depend on a lot of factors, particularly, how post-separation events turn out for both.
But no matter what the result is, Bill and Melinda Gates have, so far, made the world a better place than they met it through their Foundation and as such their names will be remembered for what they achieved together, even in generations to come.