Biggest divorce since Bezos: Bill Gates will have to divide fortune

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Biggest divorce since Bezos: Bill Gates will have to divide fortune

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.

The couple announced their divorce in Monday, with Melinda saying the marriage is 'irretrievably broken' in court filings - which also reveal the couple have no prenup agreement.

In a joint statement posted to their Twitter accounts on Monday, the pair said their work with their charity 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.' 

When the Bezos divorce was finalized in 2019, Jeff kept 75 percent of their joint stake in Amazon - then worth $144billion - leaving MacKenzie with a quarter worth $35.8billion.

It appears that Bill and Melinda have already done a lot of the work of dividing up their estate, as their divorce papers repeatedly refer to a 'separation contract' which both have signed. 

The Gates empire includes homes in five states; a fleet of cars including a rare $2 million Porsche; an art collection that includes a $30 million book of writings and sketches by Leonardo Da Vinci; 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.

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 have already pledged to give most of their fortune away before they die. Their three children will receive a reported $10 million each - a tiny fraction of their parents' fortune.

Yet, despite The Giving Pledge, they retain plenty of assets which will need to be split between them.

Xanadu 2.0 Mansion, Washington 

The Gates family owns a string of luxury mansions across the US, in Washington, Florida, California and Wyoming.

Prime among them is their main family home in Washington, 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 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.' 

Other mansions 

Xanadu 2.0 is not the only great house owned by Gates.

They 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.

Bill Gates could drop from #4 to #17 on billionaires index if he splits fortune 50/50 with Melinda 

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 

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 which was originally settled by Buffalo Bill in 1902 and named after his oldest daughter. 

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 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 also 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.

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. 


In addition to his five homes, Gates has quietly built up a massive agriculture portfolio.

He is now the biggest private owner of farmland in the US, with 242,000 acres across 18 different states. 

The 65-year-old's largest holdings include 69,071 acres in Louisiana, 47,927 acres in Arkansas, 25,750 acres in Arizona, 20,588 acres in Nebraska and 16,097 in Washington state. 

But even with his big new agricultural holdings, Gates still doesn't rank in the Top 100 of private landowners overall in the U.S. - when considering owners of land of all types, not just agricultural. 

The title for largest landholdings overall goes to US businessman John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, who owns 2.2million acres.   

It is unclear why Gates has invested in farmland so heavily, and details of the land are scarce, as revealed in The Land Report. 

The acquisitions are held directly, as well as through Gates' personal investment entity, Cascade Investments.

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Bill Gates is known for his love of cars - his Seattle home has a garage with space for 30 vehicles.

He told Ellen DeGeneres in February 2018 that his biggest splurge after founding Microsoft was buying a Porsche 911 supercar, which he later sold.  

'That was an indulgence,' Gates told DeGeneres.

The car, which he bought when Microsoft was based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wasn't just for show: Gates loved to put its speed to the test and race it in the desert. 

His partner Paul Allen once had to bail him out of jail after one particularly reckless ride. 

Gates is also the owner of a Porsche 930 Turbo, a Jaguar XJ6 and a Ferrari 348.

His most valuable car is believed to be an extremely rare Porsche 959 - only several hundred were ever made - that he had to wait 13 years for while its arrival was held up by customs into the U.S. It even required the passage of a special law, the Show or Display Rule, to allow its use in the country.

They will sell for up to $2 million at auction.

Gates' most recent purchase, he said in February 2020, was a Porsche Taycan - an electric car.

'I have to say it's a premium-priced car, but it is very, very cool,' Gates said, in a YouTube interview. 

'That's my first electric car, and I'm enjoying it a lot.' 


Gates in 2019 said that having a private jet was an indulgence, but one which made his life more efficient.

Gates famously plans his day in five-minute blocks, for maximum efficiency.

'I sometimes use a private jet,' Gates said in the 2019 Reddit chat. 

'It does help me do my foundation work but again it is a very privileged thing to have.' 

Gates is believed to own two $65 million Gulfstream G650ERs, two Bombardier Challenger 350s, a Cessna Seaplane and a collection of helicopters. 

In February, speaking to Fox News to promote his book How To Avoid a Climate Disaster, Gates was asked how he could justify the use of private jets with his eco-warrior stance. 

Gates appeared to suggest the question was 'absolutely right' but noted he takes steps to make up for his personal carbon footprint via his work. 

'I am offsetting my carbon emissions by buying clean aviation fuel and funding carbon capture and funding low cost housing projects to use electricity instead of natural gas and so I have been able to eliminate it and it was amazing to me how expensive that was, that cost to be green,' he said.

'We've got to drive that down.

'I felt like, if we have this idealistic generation and this wonderful goal, we need a plan, and that my experience could help contribute to that plan.'


Gates is also known for his art collection - most famously Leonardo da Vinci's Codex, which he bought in 1994 for $30 million, at auction at Christie's in New York.

The Codex takes pride of place in his Seattle library.

It is known as the Leicester Codex, as it was once owned by the Earl of Leicester.

It is described as a notebook, with 36 leather-bound sheets, containing a mixture of Da Vinci's observations and theories on the properties of water, rocks, and fossils; air, and celestial light.

His art collection also includes an oil painting named Lost On The Grand Banks, by Winslow Homer, which he purchased at $36 million in 1998. 

He also owns a work entitled Polo Crowd, by George Bellows, which he bought for $28 million in 1999.

The Room of Flowers by Childe Hassam, for which Gates paid $20 million, hangs inside the library. 

Gates also owns William Merritt Chase's The Nursery, worth $10 million. 

Reference: Harriet Alexander For  

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