WORK being carried out by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Nigeria to eradicate diseases like polio will continue unabated despite the recent announcement by the couple that they are to divorce after 27 years of marriage.
Earlier today, the billionaire founder of Microsoft Bill Gates stunned the corporate world by announcing that he will be separating from his wife. However, Mr Gates announced that the divorce will not affect the numerous charitable activities he and his wife run and they will continue all their philanthropic work together.
Worldwide, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health, spending more than $50bn over the past two decades to bring a business approach to combating poverty and disease. Among other things, the Gates have backed widely-praised programmes in malaria and polio eradication, child nutrition and vaccines.
In response to the global pandemic, last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed some $1.75bn to Covid-19 relief. In a joint petition for dissolution of marriage, Bill and Melinda said their legal union was irretrievably broken but added that they had reached agreement on how to divide their marital assets.
Bill 65, and Melinda, 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. Their 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 non-profit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks as the largest private philanthropic foundation in the US and one of the world’s biggest, with net assets of $43.3bn at the end of 2019. In Nigeria, it has been particularly active in eradicating polio, with the Gates’ visiting regularly.
Between 1994 and 2018, the Gates couple gifted more than $36bn to the Seattle-based foundation. Last year, investor Warren Buffett donating more than $2bn of stock from his Berkshire Hathaway to the Gates Foundation as part of previously announced plans to give away his entire fortune before his death.
Bill Gates is ranked number four on the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, with an estimated $124bn fortune. Despite the divorce, the Gates Foundation said the couple would remain as co-chairs and trustees of the organisation.
Gates dropped out of Harvard University to start Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975. He owned 49% of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multimillionaire and with the company’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, Mr Gates stepped down as the chief executive of Microsoft in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 but then left the company’s board in March 2020.