With no prenup and their $130bn fortune at stake, Bill Gates hires 97-year-old lawyer Charlie T Munger
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Twenty-seven years. That’s a long time of pledging to love and cherish someone. For Melinda Gates, it meant helping to catapult her husband’s brand to billionaire status.
No one intends for their marriage to end; you enter a union with the purest of intentions, but once a relationship becomes “irretrievably broken”, divorce is the only option.
For the Gates marriage, however, things are not so cut and dry. There’s money involved, billions of it. And just as soon as their divorce was announced, Bill Gates appeared to take off the kid gloves and enlist the help of Charlie T Munger, a close friend.
Why? Because there’s $130 billion (about R1.8 trillion) at stake. With no prenup in place, we’re betting it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Munger’s divorce in the 1950s cost him his fortune. He later remarried and rebuilt his wealth. Interestingly, Munger is vice-chairperson of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett's holding company.
To say he’s the right man for the job is an understatement.
In her divorce petition, Melinda said spousal support was “not needed”, but is willing to take a settlement which will probably be privately negotiated, the Daily Mail reported.
But the issue of assets comes into play. Bill had made his first billion at the age of 31 in 1987 – the same year he met Melinda, meaning everything is up for grabs.
Accumulated assets include properties in five US states, a private jet, an enviable art collection and a fleet of luxury cars.
Although reasons for the split have not been made clear, Melinda eluded to a fight between the two in 2013 in her book The Moment of Lift.
"It got hot. Bill said the process we had for the Annual Letter had been working well for the foundation for years, and he didn't see why it should change," she wrote.
She also described their marriage, saying: "He's had to learn how to be an equal, and I've had to learn how to step up and be an equal," adding earlier in the book that she was "shy" and "private."
In her court filing, she said: "This marriage is irretrievably broken."
The divorce could finally be an opportunity for Melinda to step into her own light after spending so many years playing in her husband’s shadow.
For MacKenzie Scott, her 2019 divorce from Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos left her with a 4% stake in Amazon.
She used her stake to become a leading philanthropist. In December, Scott said she had donated more than $4.1bn in the four previous months to food banks and emergency relief funds amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Reuters reported.
Who knows? For Melinda Gates, after 27 years of marriage, the split could finally be her salvation.