Calling it quits
In a surprise announcement, Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they would be bringing an end to their 27 years of marriage. The couple announced their intent for the same with a joint statement posted on Twitter. For now, there is very little that is known of the background reasons for the split. The closest the world has to a reason is that they no longer believed they can grow as a couple. The couple's eldest daughter Jennifer Gates revealed that the family had been going through a 'challenging stretch of time'. The announcement, subdued though it was, has nevertheless created a major stir in the wider world. Already social media posts and news headlines are asking whether we could be seeing the most expensive divorce settlement ever. As a reminder, the current most expensive divorce settlement was the one that happened when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos divorced his wife MacKenzie Scott in 2019. Scott was reported to have received USD 38 billion as part of the settlement. So what shall be the figures this time? Well, there is no way to know right now but there is a considerable value of assets at stake. Over USD 130 billion to be exact. It has been reported that the couple does not have a prenuptial agreement. There is instead an as yet unseen separation contract that will provide the finer logistical details of this split. Still, there are no scandals or heated exchanges on the schedule as the split appears to be a relatively amicable affair in the future. Of course, the couple is not the most public about its private life which is why this incident has taken many by shock. Regardless of whether there will or will not be any juicy details in the future, there is something a lot more pertinent and serious to focus on when it comes to the Gates divorce. That happens to be the status of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and what would happen to the charitable organisation after their split. The organisation has significant funding and influence after all. A 2019 listing showed that its net assets have gone past USD 43 billion. In many ways, after Microsoft, this foundation was the main focus of Bill Gates. He and his wife Melinda have donated more than USD 36 billion to their foundation between 1994 and 2018. The couple's friend and fellow billionaire Warren Buffet has also donated more than USD 29 billion to the foundation since 2006. The organisation is not just about the big numbers and big names. Over the decades, it has come to be involved in a truly broad range of charitable, humanitarian and even scientific activities. Money has been given to fight diseases such as ebola, polio and malaria. On malaria alone, the couple pledged to spend USD 2 billion with a vow to eradicate the disease in a single generation. They have led equality of opportunity programmes as well based on giving education grants and investing in women empowerment measures such as the expansion of contraception availability worldwide. And rather pertinent to the current times, the couple has also been heavily involved in vaccine development and climate change mitigation studies in recent years. India, of course, knows much about the charitable work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Active in the country since 2003, the foundation has had a wide range of focus in India on issues like child nutrition, sanitation, agricultural development, empowerment of women, increased digitalisation with particular emphasis on digital finance, etc. Most of these programmes were undertaken in coordination with state and Central governments. As per the foundation itself, it has invested more in India than any other country except the US. For their many contributions to India and its people, the couple was jointly rewarded with the Padma Bhushan in 2015. This is what is at stake. Move past the scandals and gossip and what emerges is a prolific charitable organisation that despite a few prominent taints to its image has done vital work throughout the world in improving the quality of human living. Regardless of anyone's personal views on whether the charity of the rich actually works or is some kind of tax evasion scheme, it is hard to deny the impact of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thankfully, the couple has indicated that when it comes to the foundation, both Bill and Melinda are dedicated to working together after their split in the future as well.