Bill Gates has hired a lawyer who serves as right-hand man to his billionaire friend Warren Buffet to oversee his divorce from wife Melinda, as the couple become one of the wealthiest ever to split.
Charles T Munger, of Los Angeles-based firm Munger Tolles & Olson, is listed as one of the three attorneys representing Bill in divorce papers filed by Melinda in Washington state on Monday.
Munger, 97 and himself a billionaire, also happens to be vice president of Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company run by Buffet - who is a long-time friend of Gates and the world's sixth richest man.
Gates, with a wealth of $130billion, is currently listed as the world's fourth richest but will almost certainly lose that spot when he and Melinda officially part ways, and could fall to 17th if they agree a 50/50 split.
Munger, a 97-year-old father-of-eight, is a Michigan State drop-out who served in the Second World War as an Army meteorologist before earning a law degree at Harvard.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
As a child, Munger worked at Buffet's grandfather's grocery store in Omaha for $2 an hour, before meeting the grandson at a dinner party in 1959, where the two struck up a friendship that ultimately led them to work together.
Munger is described by Forbes as a 'pragmatic investor and active philanthropist who has given millions to universities'.
Bill, 64, and Melinda, 56, were married for 27 years before announcing their split this week - with papers filed by Melinda saying the marriage is 'irretrievably broken'.
Bill Gates is being represented by Charles T Munger (right), a 97-year-old father-of-eight who is worth $2.2bn, in his divorce from wife Melinda. Mr Munger also happens to be the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company run by Gates' billionaire pal Warren Buffet
Melinda filed a petition for divorce from Bill on Monday in the Superior Court of Washington - King County. In the petition (pictured) she described their marriage as 'irretrievably broken'
Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
The 65-year-old Microsoft founder and his 56-year-old wife shared the news with identical statements on Twitter (pictured)
The couple are pictured with their three kids in a 2019 family photo. The kids - Jennifer (center), Rory (right) and Phoebe (left) are now aged 25, 21 and 18
The pair are pictured during a Zoom appearance on April 19 at One World: Together At Home, a broadcast special to support healthcare workers
In their divorce filing, Bill and Melinda Gates make it clear that they have no prenuptial agreement - but the papers make repeated reference to a 'separation contract' which will divide up their estate.
A separation contract, or separation agreement, is a legally binding document drawn up by divorcing couples in advance of their split in which they agree how to split their lives - including child custody and access, debts and property.
It is governed by contract law, meaning that either party can sue the other for breach of contract if the agreement is broken.
Signing a separation contract allows a couple to divide their assets by mutual agreement, rather than having to go to court.
For the average couple, this means saving money in lawyers' fees. For Bill and Melinda Gates, it avoids a lengthy, public process during which details about their private lives an assets may have been revealed.
However, a separation agreement is not necessarily final and a judge may overrule it if they feel the contract is unfair to the children involved, unfair to one of the partners, or that one partner has not fully disclosed their assets or earnings to be divvied up.
The couple met in 1987 - the same year Bill became the world's youngest billionaire at the age of 31 - married in Hawaii in 1994, and have three children together: Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe 18.
They also established the world's largest charitable foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in 2000 which has contributed more than $50billion to causes including eradicating polio and malaria. The foundation has also been a major investor in coronavirus treatments.
In a joint statement posted to their Twitter accounts on Monday, the pair said their work with the foundation will continue but their marriage will not, adding: 'We no longer feel we are able to grow as a couple in this next phase of our lives.'
While the couple have no prenup, it appears a lot of the work of dividing up their estate - which includes properties in five states, a private jet, an astonishing art collection and a fleet of luxury cars - has already been done, as their divorce papers repeatedly refer to a 'separation contract' which both have signed. The contract itself has not been made public.
The documents, which were obtained by DailyMail.com, came to light after the couple's eldest daughter revealed their family has been going through a 'challenging stretch of time'.
Jennifer Gates, 25, spoke out about the divorce announcement on Instagram on Monday afternoon, writing: 'I'm still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as my family members at this time and am grateful for the space to do so.'
Jennifer is the oldest of Bill and Melinda's three children, followed by 21-year-old son Rory and 18-year-old daughter Phoebe.
Bill and Melinda both posted the same joint statement about their divorce on Twitter, which read: '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. 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. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.'
The announcement comes less than two weeks after they made their last public appearance, virtually, at a COVID event for healthcare workers.
Bill was already a billionaire he married Melinda in the early 1990s. He founded Microsoft in 1975 and became the world's youngest billionaire in 1987 at the age of 31. He also met Melinda that year when she was working at the company where he served as CEO.
They married six years later but he deliberated over it and, according to previous interviews given by Melinda, even made a list of pros and cons for marriage on a whiteboard.
The reason behind their split after over a quarter-century remains a mystery but Melinda has previously suggested her husband had trouble balancing work and family.
In the divorce petition, which was filed in Superior Court of Washington - King County on Monday, Melinda asked the judge to dissolved the marriage 'on the date stated in our separation contract'. The separation contract was not included in the filing so that date is unclear.
In the absence of the pre-nuptial agreement, the only agreement pertaining to the divorce is the separation contract.
Melinda did not ask for any spousal support but requested a trial date in April 2022. However it is likely the divorce will be settled without a trial.
The petition states that finances pertaining to the couple's two children are addressed in the separation contract. The document was signed by both Bill and Melinda, as well as their attorneys.
Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975, almost 20 years before he married Melinda. The company made $1million in sales by 1978 and by 1987, he had become the world's youngest ever billionaire. He met Melinda that year. They are pictured in 1998
Both Bill and Melinda hired powerhouse law firms to assist in the divorce. While Bill is represented by three lawyers from Munger Tolles & Olson - including Charles - Melinda is represented by a team of four New York based attorneys from two separate firms: Cohen Clair Lane Griefer Thorpe & Rottenstreich LLP and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
The Gates' divorce, though one of the most expensive in history, is not the most expensive.
That title goes to Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder who split his $150billion fortune with his wife MacKenzie in 2019 after his affair with Lauren Sanchez was revealed.
They, unlike Bezos, are both part of The Giving Pledge - a collection of the world's richest people who have all vowed to devote at least half of their fortunes to charity.
In 2000 they founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - the most influential private foundation in the worth with an endowment work nearly $50billion.
Over the last year the foundation has focused on the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
As of December, the foundation had committed a total of $1.75billion to the global pandemic response.
Jennifer Gates, 25, (left) responded to the news of her parents' split in an Instagram post on Monday evening (right)
Bill made his first billion in 1987, becoming the youngest ever billionaire. He was 31. He founded Microsoft in 1975. Melinda joined the company that year. He is shown, left, in 1985, aged 29, and she is shown, right, in 1995, the year after they married
Bill and Melinda tied the knot in 1994 after dating for about seven years. They are pictured together in 1998
In their statement on Monday, the Gates vowed to continue that work together after their split.
The couple met in 1987 when Melinda was working at Microsoft as a project manager and was seated next to Gates at a business dinner.
Melinda described the meeting in her 2019 biography The Moment of Lift, writing: 'I showed up late, and all the tables were filled except one, which still had two empty chairs side by side. I sat in one of them. A few minutes later, Bill arrived and sat in the other.'
After a year of dating, Bill made a list of the pros and cons of getting married.
'You know, we cared a lot for each other and there were only two possibilities: either, we were going to break up or we were going to get married,' Bill said in a Netflix documentary about his life.
She has playfully told how he made a pros and cons lift of whether or not they should get married on a whiteboard. They eventually tied the knot on a golf course on the Hawaiian island of Lanai in 1994, and welcomed their first child together, Jennifer, in 1996.
In 2019, shortly after their 25th wedding anniversary, Melinda gave a rare interview to The Sunday Times in which she revealed how Bill struggled to balance work with family.
'We’ve just gotten to a point in life where Bill and I can both laugh about more things.
'And, believe me, I can remember some days that were so incredibly hard in our marriage where you thought, "Can I do this?"' she said.
In her memoir published that same year Melinda wrote about her private struggles as the wife of a public icon and stay-at-home mom with three kids.
Bill founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen. He served as CEO until 2000 then moved into a director role while gradually scaling back his involvement to dedicate more time to philanthropy.
He transitioned out of a day-to-day role in Microsoft in 2008 and served as chairman of the board until 2014. Last year he stepped down from the board of Microsoft entirely, as well as the board of Berkshire Hathaway.
Melinda - the daughter of an aerospace engineer and a housewife - was born Melinda Ann French in Dallas, Texas, in 1964 and attended the elite Duke University in North Carolina before joining Microsoft in 1987.
Bill also grew up privileged in Seattle, where he was born in 1955. His father was a prominent lawyer and his mother was on the board of the financial holding companies. He dropped out of Harvard to pursue Microsoft in the 1970s.
The couple welcomed their first child together, Jennifer, in 1996, followed by son Rory in 1999 and Phoebe in 2002.
Bill grew up privileged in Seattle, where he was born in 1955. He is pictured in two childhood yearbook photos
Melinda - the daughter of an aerospace engineer and a housewife - was born Melinda Ann French in Dallas, Texas, in 1964. She is pictured (right) in a yearbook photo from high school
The biggest divorce since Bezos: Bill and Melinda Gates will have to divide his $130BILLION fortune including Da Vinci artworks, a fleet of cars, jet, and properties in five states
Bill Gates currently holds the title of fourth-richest person in the world with a net worth of $124billion, per Forbes. But if he were to split his fortune in half with Melinda in their divorce, he would drop to 17.
1. Jeff Bezos - $177B
2. Elon Musk - $151B
3. Bernard Arnault & family - $150B
4. Bill Gates - $124B
5.Mark Zuckerberg - $97B
6. Warren Buffett - $96B
7. Larry Ellison - $93B
8. Larry Page - $91.5B
9. Sergey Brin - $89B
10. Mukesh Ambani - $84.5B
16. Carlos Slim Helu & family - $62.8B
17. Alice Walton - $61.8B
Bill and Melinda Gates' divorce will be the largest division of assets since Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie split in 2019.
The Gates are worth an estimated $130 billion, making them the fourth-richest people in the world, behind Bezos, Elon Musk, and French luxury goods owner Bernard Arnault.
Should their split their fortune in half in their divorce, Bill could drop in rank to around number 17 on the Forbes billionaires' index.
Their wealth includes several impressive real estate holdings, including their main home in Washington state and properties in California, Florida, Wyoming and Massachusetts.
In addition, they have a private jet and an astonishing art collection. He also owns a fleet of fast cars.
Bill owns 1.37 percent of Microsoft's outstanding shares, which are worth more than $26 billion, according to CNBC.
He stepped down from the board of Microsoft in March 2020, but remains as a technology adviser to CEO Satya Nadella.
He also makes investments through his Gates Ventures private office.
In 2015, Melinda established a new organization called Pivotal Ventures, an independent executive office.
The idea was to allow her to pursue ideas that might not fit within the structure of the Gates Foundation.
In 2000, the couple founded The Gates Foundation, dedicated to helping some of the world's poorest people through initiatives such as eradicating polio, reducing the spread of malaria and HIV/Aids, and investing in sanitation and financial systems for those without.
They have poured huge amounts of their own money into the Foundation, making it one of the world's largest philanthropic organizations.
From 1994 through 2018, the couple gave the foundation more than $36billion.
In 2010 they founded The Giving Pledge, alongside Warren Buffett, and promised to give away the majority of their fortune.
Yet, despite their The Giving Pledge and their namesake foundation, the Gates retain plenty of assets which will need to be split between them.
The Gates family home contains a 30-car garage and 20-room main living area
Gates said that he wanted his home to be of the highest craftsmanship, but not ostentatious
Property: A $125million compound on the outskirts of Seattle, seaside mansion in San Diego and ranch getaway in Santa Fe
Prime among the couple's properties is their main family home, known as Xanadu 2.0.
The 66,000-square-foot mansion overlooks Lake Washington in Medina, nine miles out of downtown Seattle - where The Gates Foundation has its headquarters.
The divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates marks the second most expensive in the world - coming behind that of Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos.
The Amazon boss and his philanthropist wife, who now uses her maiden name Scott, announced their split in January 2019 after 25 years and four children together.
Hours later the National Enquirer published a bombshell report revealing Bezos' affair with Lauren Sanchez, who herself was married to Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell.
The Enquirer claimed to have conducted a four-month investigation into Bezos and Sanchez's relationship and said it obtained explicit texts and photos the couple had sent to each other. It was later suggested that Bezos and Scott had timed their divorce announcement to get ahead of the Enquirer report.
Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos announced their split in January 2019 after 25 years and four children together
Their divorce was finalized in April 2019 with Jeff keeping 75 percent of the couple's stock and MacKenzie keeping a four percent stake in Amazon - translating to about 19.7 million shares worth roughly $35billion at the time.
Scott is considered the third wealthiest woman in the world after her net worth surged by $30.3 billion to $61.4billion last year when Amazon shares rocketed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile Bezos also saw a massive windfall as his net worth surged to $201.4billion.
In the wake of the divorce Scott has donated almost $6billion of her wealth to charity.
In a Medium post in December, Scott revealed she had given away $4.1 billion in the previous four months to hundreds of organizations in a bid to help those financially gutted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She had previously donated $1.68billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations in July 2020.
In March it was revealed she tied the knot with Dan Jewett, a teacher at a school her kids attended in Seattle.
Bezos, who is still dating Sanchez, extended his congratulations in a statement through an Amazon spokesperson,