When Microsoft MSFT co-founder and ex-CEO Bill Gates announced the end of his marriage to Melinda Gates, he requested “space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
Gates’ request that people not pry into his world might be a tad difficult, given the pair are among the world’s richest married couples. Nor will it be easy for them to start a new life when their old one encompassed a complex financial environment.
For those curious about how the other 1% live, here is a scorecard on the Gates’ wealth and what will be required when the time comes to divide their holdings after 27 years together.
Rules Of Disengagement: One minor surprise arising from the news of the divorce was the absence of a prenuptial agreement, meaning there are no set boundaries to divide his from hers in this case.
Also complicating matters is state law: The couple live in Washington, which is a community property state. That means a judge could potentially divide their marital assets equally, which would mean Melinda could walk away with half of Bill’s $130-billion fortune.
One consideration that will not be part of the divorce proceedings is child support: Melinda stated it's unneeded, as their children are over the age of 18.
The Gates Property Empire: Earlier this year, an investigation by The Land Report uncovered a rather surprising fact about Bill Gates: he is the single largest owner of U.S. farmland, with a portfolio of more than 268,000 acres spread over more than a dozen states. Because this property was acquired after the couple married, this will be considered part of the assets to be divided.
A separate report by Wealth-X found Gates was the owner of a non-agricultural real estate portfolio worth more than $166 million. This portfolio includes the couple’s 66,000-square-foot lakeside home in Medina, Washington, which carries an estimated value of $65 million, along with a 30-acre estate in Wellington, Florida, a pair of luxury homes in California, a condo at Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana and a private island in Belize.
Investment Assets: Of course, no home is complete without tasteful furnishings, and Wealth-X pointed out that Gates has amassed an art collection valued at $130 million that includes the works of Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer.
Gates also has a notebook from Leonardo Da Vinci that he acquired for $30.8 million in a 1994 auction, as well as four rare first-edition copies of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby."
Wealth-X has also catalogued Gates’ $650,000 sports car collection, which includes three flashy vehicles from Porsche SE POAHY — a 1988 Porsche 959 Coupe, a Porsche 911 and a Porsche Carrera Cabriolet 964 — plus a Jaguar XJ6 and Ferrari 348.
But Gates’ most considerable asset would be his $29.9 billion in holdings in Cascade Investment, which covers nearly one-quarter of his total wealth.
Wealth-X determined Gates’ shareholdings through this company include an estimated $11.9 billion in John Deere DE, $11 billion in Canadian National Railway CNI and $1.6 billion in Diageo plc DEO.
And while he is no longer running Microsoft, Gates still owns roughly $26.1 billion in shares.
As for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the couple stated they would continue to work together on this philanthropic organization — and they transferred $20 billion of Microsoft stock into the foundation before announcing their divorce.
Bill will be represented in the divorce by the law firm Munger Tolles & Olson, which was co-founded by Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B), while Melinda will have attorney representation from the New York City law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
(Photo courtesy World Economic Forum.)
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