Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce will be the largest division of assets since Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie split in mid 2019.
The Gateses 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.
Their empire includes 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.
Gates is also the biggest private owner of farmland in the United States, with 242,000 acres across 18 different states.
When the Bezos divorce was finalized in July 2019, she received $38.3 billion worth of Amazon stock – making her the richest woman in the world.
Like the Gates, they had been married for decades: the Bezoses for 25 years, and the Gateses for 27 years.
MacKenzie Bezos had also been heavily involved in the early days of their company, Amazon – much like how Melinda Gates played a senior role at Microsoft.
The Gateses, who have three children – Jennifer, 25; Phoebe, 18; and Rory, 21 – have their main home in Washington state, on the outskirts of Seattle.
Bill and Melinda Gates, pictured in November 2019 with Jennifer, Phoebe and Rory
Bill and Melinda Gates, in an Instagram photo from August 2018
They also own property 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.
The couple met when she started at Microsoft in 1987 – he had founded the firm in 1975.
The two married on January 1, 1994.
In 2000, they 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.
In 2010 they founded The Giving Pledge, alongside Warren Buffett, and promised to give away the majority of their fortune.
Their three children would receive a reported $10 million each – a tiny fraction of their parents’ fortune.
The Queen presents Bill Gates with his honorary knighthood in 2005 at Buckingham Palace
Melinda Gates is presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2016
Yet, despite The Giving Pledge, they retain plenty of assets which will need to be split between them.
Prime among them 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.
Gates purchased the lot in 1988 for $2 million, but spent seven years building his dream home – at a cost of $63 million.
The construction along the picturesque lake angered some neighbors, The Washington Post reported at the time – so Gates responded with free car washes, and made his construction crew available to help with little projects at nearby homes.
The home is now worth an estimated $125 million.
‘I wanted craftsmanship but nothing ostentatious,’ Gates wrote in his book, The Road Ahead, which was written from the guest house, while the main house was being constructed.
‘I wanted a house that would accommodate sophisticated, changing technology but in an unobtrusive way that made it clear that technology was the servant, not the master.’
The Gates family home contains a 30-car garage and 20-room main living area
The home has an indoor-outdoor pool with an underwater music system and fossil designs on the floor, plus an ancient fossil imprint of a palm frond behind the diving board.
In the five-acre plot, there is an artificial stream stocked with salmon and cut-throat trout, and a beach with sand imported, according to some, from the Caribbean.
Inside the seven bedroom mansion, with a reported 18 bathrooms, is an art deco home cinema with seating for 20, and a 1,000-square-foot dining room with seating for 24.
For larger gatherings, the 2,300 square-foot reception hall can seat 150 people for dinner, or 200 for a cocktail party.
The 2,100-square-foot library includes two secret pivoting bookcases, one of which contains a bar.
A special nook has been constructed to display one of Gates’s most prized possessions – a scientific notebook kept by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s, called the Codex.
Gates bought it at auction in 1994 for $30 million.
On the ceiling is engraved a quote from The Great Gatsby: ‘He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.’
There are four rare copies of the book in his library, The Washington Post reported.
Guests at the property, according to Seattle Curbed, are giving a pin to wear on arrival, with sensors.
Depending on their preferences, the temperature, music and lighting will change in the house.
Each room comes with its own touchpad to control the room environment.
‘I have a nice house,’ said Gates, in a February 2019 ‘Ask Me Anything’ forum on Reddit.
‘It includes a trampoline room which seems kind of over the top, but my kids love using it to work off their excess energy.
‘I am not sure how guilty I should feel about being in a great house.’
It is not his only great house.
The Gateses also own a $59 million ranch in Wellington, Florida – an area known for its equestrianism, which will appeal to his eldest daughter Jennifer, a talented horsewoman.
Jennifer Gates is seen competing at The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington in 2009
Jennifer Gates on Pumped Up Kicks competes at the Longines Global Champions Tour in Chantilly, France in 2017
Wellington, described by The Real Deal as the winter equestrian capital of the world, is the seasonal playground for the families of a number of billionaires – Michael Bloomberg, the late Steve Jobs, the Campbell’s Soup family, and celebrities whose children compete in horse riding competitions.
The family also own the Irma Lake Lodge, a $9 million, 492-acre Wyoming ranch Buffalo Bill named after his oldest daughter back when he settled the place in 1902.
Gates bought the property in 2009.
According to the realtor’s description, obtained by Insider: ‘The ranch lies adjacent to Shoshone National Forest and nearby Washakie Wilderness, which gives this property a backyard of over three million acres containing continuous wilderness and forest lands.’
In addition to the main 15,000-square-foot house with its five bedrooms and three bathrooms, there is a guesthouse, caretaker’s house, dairy cabin, Buffalo Bill stable and a rustic hut on the island located in the middle of Irma Lake.
Perched on a knoll is is Buffalo Bill’s original three-room hunting cabin – not fit for habitation, and kept in its original state.
The land is home to elk, moose, Mule deer, Bighorn sheep, bear, mountain lion, wolves, bobcats, wolverines and lynx.
The couple have two homes in California – the 228-acre Rancho Paseana, which he purchased for $18 million in September 2014 from diet queen Jenny Craig.
It includes a racetrack, orchard, and five barns with space for 50 horses.
He bought another $43 million property in California near San Diego, closing the deal in April 2020.
A picture showing the inside of the home the Gateses bought near San Diego for $43 million
The terrace of the Gateses’ San Diego home, which they bought in April 2020
The ocean-front home, above, is seen with parasols on the terrace
The luxurious six-bedroom, four-bathroom, 5,800-square-foot home was sold by Madeleine Pickens, a former wife of the billionaire oil baron T. Boone Pickens.
According to the listing details, obtained by The Real Deal, the house is well-known as a city landmark and is considered ‘one of the most prominent coastal contemporary beach homes on the West Coast.’
It has 120 feet of private ocean frontage.
Bill Gates owns 1.37 per cent 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 Gates 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.